Shame on David Garrow {Outlook, Nov. 18} or anyone else who might assert that Martin Luther King Jr. is any less a role model or an "inspirational symbol" because of recently heralded evidence of plagiarism.

The significance of Dr. King's life -- and death -- lies in his incredibly courageous leadership in confronting head-on this country's insidious system of racism. His insightful leadership spearheaded the abolition of legally endorsed Jim Crow, while providing an avenue for a healthy multicultural alliance.

It would seem that one of Dr. King's assets, furthermore, was that he had the intelligence and receptivity to continuously expose himself to the ideas of others, while articulating the resultant composite in a manner that motivated millions. Did any of his "sources" ever deliver the equivalent of the powerful "I Have a Dream" speech?

O, that our young people today would join such a fight for human dignity, racial and economic justice and constructive improvement of society's ills!

LYNN C. FRENCH Washington

David Garrow writes that "non-academic readers should not be surprised by the failure of King's professors at Boston, as at Crozer, to detect {Martin Luther King Jr.'s} errors. They had come to know him as an intelligent and hard-working man. Hence it is plausible that DeWolf -- and other doctoral committee members -- could write enthusiastic evaluations of King's dissertation without subjecting it to the sort of scrutiny which they might well have applied to the work of a marginal student."

On the contrary! No respectable director of a dissertation and no member of a doctoral committee would ever pass a dissertation without reading at least most of it, noting errors and advising the student on how it might be improved. As a professor of philosophy at Catholic University, I am sure the dissertation was either not read at all, or those who passed it were unfamiliar with the writings of Tillich and Wieman, the ostensible topics of the dissertation.

What Dr. King did was wrong. But whenever the fact is mentioned, it should be accompanied with the remark: "Directed but apparently not read or properly supervised. Theirs was a serious failure to do what they were required to do -- direct and supervise."

PAUL WEISS Washington

Martin Luther King Jr. devoted his life to making the world a better place, and he gave up his life in this noble cause. All Americans benefit from his work for civil rights, justice and peace. The quality of his doctoral dissertation is irrelevant to the tremendous contribution he made to this nation.