Skip to comments.Remembering And Reflecting on Martin Luther King's Assassination (Remembering 1968)
Posted on 04/04/2008 5:46:31 AM PDT by Nextrush
On Thursday April 4th, 1968 the City of Memphis was back in federal court seeking a permanent injunction against any protest by Martin Luther King to support the sanitation workers strike.
Police Director Frank Holloman spoke of black adults buying guns and young black people receiving training in the use of molotov cocktails.
In the evening I watched the "Huntley-Brinkley Report" on NBC and saw the story of the day before including the King speech. I was seven years old and this was the first time I had ever heard the name "Martin Luther King."
In the evening just after six Memphis time (7 in the east) Martin Luther King stepped on the balcony of the Lorraine Motel. As he was talking King was shot.
King was rushed to a hospital with aides Ralph Abernathy and Andrew Young going along. Staying at the Lorraine was Jesse Jackson, who spoke to the media that showed up. Jackson's account of his involvement that many believed exaggerated his own importance marked the beginning of Jesse Jackson's rise to national prominence.
Dr. King died around 7 Memphis time (8PM Eastern).
At home I sat in my bedroom watching my black and white television set (no color picture). Prime time schedules for the big three and only three national TV networks that existed at the time started at 7:30 PM.
I loved watching the "Batman" show on ABC scheduled at 7:30 to 8, but after 8 my set was tuned (no cable) to NBC which was carrying "Daniel Boone."
A "Special Report" slide appeared and an announcer said that Martin Luther King had been shot and killed in Memphis. Cameras took 20 minutes to warm up then so no anchors appeared on camera.
I jumped up and went into the hallway where my mother was. I told her what the television said and she seemed disturbed by what she heard, wanting to talk about something else.
My parents had spent the fall of 1967 looking for a new house that we moved into during January 1968. It was a house that was "further away from the city."
I never asked but the reality of 1967 was esclating and deadly racial riots in American cities. A shooting by police or an arrest involving a black person could mean a riot with properties burned and people killed.
Television images of riots and radical Black Power advocates filled the screens and millions of white people were either angered, afraid, intimidated, guilty or a combination of the above.
I believe my parents knew that Dr. King's killing would ignite a new round of violence in cities across the country.
National leaders were just as afraid and rushed to proclaim Martin Luther King as a symbol of "nonviolnce."
That night the praises heaped on Dr. King by figures ranging from President Lyndon Johnson to Senator Robert Kennedy (on the campaign trail that night in Indiana) would mark the beginning of King's elevation to sainthood.
Martin Luther King was on his way to being part of a liberal humanistic trinity that would include the assassinated Kennedy brothers.
Some of the top network anchors (Walter Cronkite of CBS and David Brinkley of NBC) were getting ready to leave Washington with President Johnson to be at a summit meeting in New Zealand.
Other anchors stepped in to provide on camera reports with Chet Huntley at NBC and Dan Rather (then White House correspondent) appearing on CBS.
Walter Cronkite got to a studio in Washington to do an updated "CBS Evening News" for the West Coast. Towards the end of his broadcast Cronkite acknowledged scattered acts of violence and crowds gathering in the streets.
I was in college and several of my Fraternity brothers who had graduated and taken jobs in Memphis, fled the city to hole up at the Fraternity house. They told of hearing gunfire and weaving through burning cars as they drove out of town.
How many remember that Rev. King was a Republican? I will guarantee you that fact won’t come out in all the media coverage today.
I have just been reading the journals of Thomas Merton and he writes of these occurances as they were happening.
It seemed as if the United States was falling apart. A terrible time.
King’s loss was catastrophic. We needed him. I don’t care what is said about his affairs etc. he was a great man.
Frankly, I for one, am tired of hearing about it. It’s just another excuse for a national pity party for one of our protected special interest groups.
My dad was in the Air Force over seas (Vietnam War) and my mom, sister and I were staying at my grandparents’ home in El Paso, Texas. I was eight years old.
I had seen MLK before (on TV) and I thought he was a good man. I was shocked when the report flashed on the screen that he had been killed. The news reports on the nightly news (we must have watched the same Huntley Brinkley Report) made me sad and I wondered why anyone would do such a thing as to kill this peaceful fellow.
Later, my grandfather who was stationed at Fort Bliss, burst throught the door and told us the news, as if we hadn’t heard it already.
I’m not a worshipper of Dr. King and I don’t represent the GOP propaganda machine in discussing the times in which he lived.
His right hand man, Rev. Ralph Abernathy acknowledged that King was “less than a saint.” I don’t think Abernathy was dissing as much as trying to be honest about a talented leader who had a personal flaw (serial adultery).
King’s Birmingham protest of 1963 was pivotal in unleashing the emotions that led to the riots that were to follow all over the country.
Its ironic he won the Nobel Peace Prize for that.
The country was divided and hurt to change laws in ways that expanded the power of the federal government at the expense of states.
Segregation was ended as a matter of law but racial wounds were opened up for others to heal later on with some wounds still not healed.
Races remained more emotionally segregated than ever even though legally the nation was integrated.
Former Senator Jesse Helms was the one brave soul who voted no on the King holiday.
The personal life is one thing, but I still think the political side deserves a deeper look.
Jack O’Dell, Bayard Rustin and the other Communists have all been brought up as associates of King.
But consider this. A man who would later be known as a close friend of Chavez and Castro, Harry Belafonte, became a friend of Dr. King early in King’s public life (the 1950’s). Belafonte worked closely with King being a big conduit of cash for King and his “civil rights movement.”
I lived in Memphis at this time...I do not recall burning cars...there were riots in two or three sections of Memphis.
Something has always stuck in my mind from this time...a highschool friend had an encounter with Dr. King prior to the assassination. She was at a 4 way stop...she, thinking it was her turn to go, pulled into the intersection..the other car, a limo, pulled out as well...she realized she was at fault and began apologizing to the other driver...as the limo pulled foward, she realized that Dr. King was the passenger...she said he smiled a tipped his hat to her...
His gesture of respect and acceptance of her apology made a deep impression on her, and on me.
A day or two later he was shot.
My highschool faternity had a danced planned for that Friday night...Robert (Bare Footin’) Parker was to be the entertainment...Instead, that weekend found National Guardsmen in the streets, curfews, etc...
And by the way, didn’t we just do this 4 months ago? About the middle of January? Did the man have any other signficant dates we can worship him for later in the year? We could make this a quarterly thing...hmm, let’s see, something in the summer around July would be good. Can someone get started on that now?
Our local stupid news-reader (who himself wasn't even born then) said this morning that we all remembered where we were when we heard the news.
I sure don't remember.