Fifty-one years ago, today, a powerful voice & soul was extinguished. I wasn’t even two years old when he was killed. He was only 39. He wasn’t a perfect person (who is?) but, his message was.
From The History Channel:
Just after 6:00p.m. on April 4, 1968, Martin Luther King, Jr. is fatally shot while standing on the balcony outside his second-story room at the Lorraine Motel in Memphis, Tennessee. The civil rights leader was in Memphis to support a sanitation workers’ strike and, was on his way to dinner when a bullet struck him in the jaw and severed his spinal cord. King was pronounced dead after his arrival at a Memphis hospital.
As word of the assassination spread, riots broke out in cities all across the United States and, National Guard troops were deployed in Memphis and Washington, D.C. On April 9, King was laid to rest in his hometown of Atlanta, Georgia. Tens of thousands of people lined the streets to pay tribute to King’s casket as it passed by in a wooden farm cart drawn by two mules.
The King family and others believe the assassination was the result of a conspiracy involving the U.S. government, Mafia and Memphis police, as alleged by Loyd Jowers in 1993. They believe that Ray was a scapegoat. In 1999, the family filed a wrongful death lawsuit against Jowers for the sum of $10 million. During closing arguments, their attorney asked the jury to award damages of $100, to make the point that “it was not about the money.” During the trial, both sides presented evidence alleging a government conspiracy. The government agencies accused could not defend themselves or respond because they were not named as defendants. Based on the evidence, the jury concluded Jowers, and others, were “part of a conspiracy to kill King” and awarded the family $100. The allegations and the finding of the Memphis jury were later rejected by the United States Department of Justice in 2000 due to lack of evidence.
“For those of you who are black, and are tempted to be filled with hatred and mistrust of the injustice of such an act, against all white people, I would only say that I can also feel in my own heart the same kind of feeling. I had a member of my family killed but, he was killed by a white man.
His speech has been credited as preventing riots in Indianapolis when the rest of the country was not so lucky.
On March 10, 1969, James Earl Ray pleaded guilty (on his birthday) and was sentenced to 99 years in the Tennessee State Penitentiary. He died in prison at the age of 70 on April 23, 1998, twenty-nine years and 19 days after King’s assassination.
Many documents regarding an FBI investigation remain classified and will stay secret until 2027.
I’ve seen the Promised Land.