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Fish, eggs, wisdom: Breakfast with Mel King

Mel King in front of Tent City in Boston's South End in May 1998.KREITER, SUZANNE GLOBE STAFF PHO

Let me tell you a Mel King story (“Mel King, 1928-2023: Activist brought a new era of race relations to Boston,” Page A1, March 29). Early in Mel King’s professorship at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s Community Fellows Program, he convened — on Wednesday mornings, as I remember — a weekly gathering of innovators who were either crazy or might change the world or both. Most of us were white, but Mel could see inside people.

At the MIT meetings, Mel cooked. Unfortunately, he cooked fish, and it was not that smell in MIT’s corridors that drew me to participate at 7 in the morning. Mel also listened insightfully, and in my case he liked a new idea and introduced me to some faculty colleagues.


The idea was this: My partners and I would borrow money, invest it in something called “energy efficiency” at hospitals, and accept a share of their savings (which we would guarantee) over some years as repayment. The contract form that evolved won over the skeptical faculty members and became the basis of an industry that now saves many billions of tons of greenhouse gas emissions annually. Mel and his faculty colleagues were involved in debating and designing the innovative contract terms. So you could say that Mel was among the founders of the energy services company industry.

I’m only a few years behind Mel now in age. So save me a place at your breakfast table, my brother. Only this time I’m bringing bagels.

David Sayre Dayton

Shaftsbury, Vt.

The writer is a microgrid engineer and entrepreneur.

I remember that Mel King opened his South End home to all for his weekend breakfasts, and he fed me scrambled eggs. More than once he used food to educate me and many other white suburbanites who knew no discrimination. He taught that until we all have a taste of the American dream, none of us is free. He did it with patience and without the anger that was justified by how so many people of color were treated in Boston.


Steve Kropper