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This Day in History - June 8, 1968, James Earl Ray was arrested for the assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr. Ray died of liver failure 29 years after his arrest. Still until this day his motive for the killing is unknown.
Historical significance and legacy of Martin Luther King, Jr.
In the years after his death, King remained the most widely known African American leader of his era. His stature as a major historical figure was confirmed by the successful campaign to establish a national holiday in his honour in the United States and by the building of a King memorial on the Mall in Washington, D.C., near the Lincoln Memorial, the site of his famous “I Have a Dream” speech in 1963. Many states and municipalities have enacted King holidays, authorized public statues and paintings of him, and named streets, schools, and other entities for him. These efforts to honour King have focused more on his role as a civil rights advocate than on his controversial speeches, during his final year, condemning American intervention in Vietnam and calling for the Poor People’s Campaign.
The King holiday campaign overcame forceful opposition, with critics citing FBI surveillance files suggesting that King was an adulterous radical influenced by communists. Although the release of these files during the 1970s under the Freedom of Information Act fueled the public debate over King’s legacy, the extensive archives that now exist document King’s life and thought and have informed numerous serious studies offering balanced and comprehensive perspectives. Two major books featuring King—David J. Garrow’s Bearing the Cross (1986) and Taylor Branch’s Parting the Waters (1988)—won Pulitzer Prizes. Subsequent books and articles reaffirmed King’s historical significance while portraying him as a complex figure: flawed, fallible, and limited in his control over the mass movements with which he was associated, yet also a visionary leader who was deeply committed to achieving social justice through nonviolent means.
Although the idea of a King national holiday did not gain significant congressional support until the late 1970s, efforts to commemorate King’s life began almost immediately after his assassination. In 1968 Rep. John Conyers of Michigan introduced a King holiday bill. The idea gradually began to attract political support once the newly formed Congressional Black Caucus included the holiday in its reform agenda. Coretta Scott King also played a central role in building popular support for the King holiday campaign while serving as founding president of the Atlanta-based Martin Luther King, Jr., Center for Nonviolent Social Change (later renamed the King Center), which became one of the major archives of King’s papers.
Despite the overall conservative trend in American politics in the 1980s, which might have been expected to work against recognition of the efforts of a controversial activist, King holiday advocates gained political support by portraying him as a symbol of the country’s progress in race relations. Musician Stevie Wonder contributed to the campaign by writing and recording “Happy Birthday,” a popular tribute to King. In 1983 Coretta Scott King and Stevie Wonder participated in the 20th Anniversary March on Washington, which drew a bigger crowd than the original march.
After the House and the Senate voted overwhelmingly in favour of the King holiday bill sponsored by Sen. Ted Kennedy, Pres. Ronald Reagan put aside his initial doubts and signed the legislation on November 3, 1983, establishing Martin Luther King, Jr., Day, to be celebrated annually on the third Monday in January. Coretta Scott King also succeeded in gaining congressional approval to establish a King Federal Holiday Commission to plan annual celebrations, beginning January 20, 1986, that would encourage “Americans to reflect on the principles of racial equality and nonviolent social change espoused by Dr. King.”
This Day in History: 06/8/1968 - King Assassination Suspect - HISTORY
Thousands of people had turned out on a sunny autumn day to cheer their President on his visit to Dallas, Texas.
But 22 November 1963 was destined to become one of the most infamous days in modern history, when two bullets from an assassin's rifle hit President John F Kennedy in the head and throat. He died 35 minutes later.
The prime suspect was 24-year-old Lee Harvey Oswald, who was arrested within hours of the shooting, but was himself murdered two days later.
Since then almost every aspect of the assassination has been disputed - it is not even clear how many shots were fired - but there is one thing most people are certain of where they were when they heard the President was dead.
I saw JFK on the last day of his life as his motorcade passed over a highway overpass in Ft Worth, Texas early on the morning of November 22, 1963.
The President had just landed at Carlwell Air Force base in the west of the city, and was being taken to an early speaking engagement in a downtown hotel.
The President was waving to all of us who were stuck in the traffic stoppage his passage caused.
Everyone present was waving back to the President.
I was a university student on my way to class that fateful morning. Later in the day, while in an art history course, the class received news that JFK had been shot in the nearby City of Dallas shortly after noon local time.
Normal life seemed to stop for most of us. The time was quite similar to the Cuban Missile Crisis earlier in Mr. Kennedy's presidency.
For the next several days the network television companies broadcast nothing but the ordeal from shooting to burial in Virginia's Arlington National Gravesite.
All of us present that day remember the time as if but yesterday.
John W Gaston, USA
At the age of ten I was in Class V at the District Council Primary School in the remote town of Kambia in the northwest district of Sierra Leone.
The sad news was stunning. I was too young to vote but old enough to remember that fateful day. No one could believe that would happen to JFK, the President who established the Peace Corps, offered me among others the opportunity of having the first American teachers in our school.
He provided me the assurance of having a bowl of cornmeal/bulgur for lunch at school. That terrible news was unimaginable.
The whole school was summoned to the football field where we normally met for the beginning of the day assembly. We did not have an auditorium then and even at this moment there is none.
The Headmaster made the formal announcement. Every pupil who could differentiate between hunger and a loaf of bread cried bitterly as if we just lost our Paramount Chief.
I had my hands over my head, tears rolling down my cheeks and my heart was overwhelmed with grief. The school formed a long line and we were led to the residence of the first Peace Corps Teachers where we paid our respect to the world's fallen hero.
Twenty years from that day I stepped my feet on the soil of America as a student. During my first break from school I made it a point of duty to visit Dallas, Texas to see first-hand the place where the course of history was woefully changed.
Nabi Yaya Sesay, Sierra Leonean in the US
I was attending first grade in a school in suburban Dallas on the day of the shooting.
President Kennedy's trip to Texas was huge news in our state. His remarks at a breakfast in Fort Worth were broadcast over our public speaker system.
I only mention this to think, in retrospec, how exotic a presidential visit to Texas was in those days. I recall that even at 6 years of age I understood that to many Texans it was a huge effort to show courtesy to this exotic fellow from the damnyankee north.
Keith Grantham, USA
I was alone at home on our family's 40 acre farm just south of Fresno, California. I was only three years old, but I had already developed the habit of flipping the telly on for the noon news.
America has a strong tradition for local TV news fixtures, and the Fresno, California NBC affiliate's noon news (even in 1963) was no exception. Ed Clayton, an older gentleman who commanded much respect at the time, gave a detailed reading of the events at Dealey Plaza.
Since my parents had been on me to not wander out onto the highway in front of our farm lest I get run over, all I got out of the report was "an 87-year-old man was killed in the street", presumably because he had stepped out in front of a car.
|I have since been to Dealey Plaza and have come to wonder how such an underachieving place could have been the setting for one of America's darkest moments<br>|
It took me some time to realise Ed had been talking about 87 years between the assassination of JFK and Garfield (the last President to be shot), and that JFK had been riding in an open car.
After all these years my memories are still fairly distinct, whilst those of my older brothers (who were in school that day) and parents have faded to grey.
I have since been to Dealey Plaza and have come to wonder how such an underachieving place, a 1950s era square, could have been the setting for one of America's darkest moments.
All I can say - at least for the assassins - is that there is no accounting for taste.
Brian McLaughlin, USA
I was an 11-year-old child, the daughter of an Air Force defense contractor, who went to an American school in West Ruislip.
Mostly I remember watching the "telly" at about 7:30pm with the "live" news, which was very profound for me at that time.
Still is, to think about it.
The day after my father took us on a drive around London, where all flags were at half-mast.
It looked like a ghost town, similar to the movie "28 Days". I'll never forget my sad mood.
Karen Moore, USA
I was a college freshman in Dallas on the day that JFK was killed.
Just before entering a class, several students approached the class doorway whispering about the incident that had just taken place.
"The president has been shot."
Another student came in a few minutes later, crying and said that the president was wounded and taken to the hospital.
I spent the entire period wondering and worrying. I had almost gone to the city to watch the motorcade go by, but stayed in class instead.
All I could think about was the promise of JFK's term and what would happen to those hopes.
When I was finally able to leave the class and walked out to the street, the US flag was already at half mast, and everyone in the street was huddled around portable radios, or next to cars with their radios on.
People were crying. I was an awful sight to experience. I had grown up with the new ideals of this president, and now saw them crushed.
Nothing has been the same in my country since those events. Vietnam, Watergate, Iran-contra, George W Bush.
I want to pass along hope to my children, but fail to convince them that the future will be better for them.
Kit Wilson, USA
I was only eight years old at the time and remember my mother asking me to listen out for the news on television and tell her what happened as she was busy cooking dinner at the time.
I was able to tell her that the man in America had died, but being from the UK and also only being eight years old I didn't know really who he was.
I remember my mother saying, "Oh God, No!" and she cried a lot.
His death didn't mean much to me personally until about 15 years later when I realised who he was.
Denise Wilden, UK
I was teaching school in Bridgewater, Mass.
The principal turned on the radio and sent it out over the school.
We were stunned and at first unable to understand what was going on.
Bridgewater is close to Cape Cod and one of the teachers owned a home near the Kennedy's.
The secret service rented her house in the summer.
You cannot imagine the quiet that came over the whole area. It lasted for days. Everyone felt like a family member had died.
I don't think I have ever quite recovered.
And then to lose his brother and Dr King. Sad and a tragedy for America.
Beth Suydan, USA
I was babysitting two little girls close to my parent's house.
It was a treat for them to go visit my Mommy and Daddy. We had just arrived. The phone rang.
My Dad, who voted for Nixon every chance he got, answered.
I remembered him sitting down as he put the receiver down, staring into space.
He looked at us and said Kennedy has been shot.
He shook his head slowly and said, "This is wrong."
After a stunned silence, he got up and turned the TV on.
We did not leave the TV until it was time for me to get the kids home before their mother arrived.
Life was forever changed for all of us, except maybe for the two who were too young to know.
But, it also gave me an insight to my Dad that I had not known. Despite his voting for Nixon, Kennedy was our President and he received the utmost respect from my Dad. Of course, the shock was just beginning leading to the shooting of Lee Harvey Oswald, which we saw as it happened.
What a weekend of horror for people not used to such horror.
Bonnie M Matheson, USA
I was stationed in Trabzon, Turkey with the US Air Force's Turkish-US Logistics Command (Tuslog, Detachment 3-1).
On the night of November 22, 1963, we were just sitting down to "midnight chow" in preparation for working the graveyard shift in operations.
For the first time, a radio speaker was on in chow hall, so we could hear our base radio station.
The announcer was saying something that I could not hear from my chair over the babble in the chow hall.
The announcer repeated what he had just said. "President Kennedy has been killed in San Antonio, Texas (the announcer had the city wrong). He was shot in the head."
I had my first fork full of food halfway to my mouth. I put it on the plate. "Oh, no!" someone said.
We rose as one, leaving our meal behind, and walked silently to the operations center, where we monitored Russian communications.
A sergeant whom I hated was waiting there, smiling, as he held the door open for us. I wanted to punch him in the face.
We were told to listen for any odd communications coming from Russia, because it was possible the Soviet Union had been behind the assassination.
It was the longest, saddest night I ever spent at work. There were no strange communications having to do with JFK's assassination.
The next morning, the sunrise was the most beautiful I have ever seen. Somehow, though, it made me even sadder. The world would never be the same.
John Lovejoy, USA
I remember what I was doing when I heard that JFK had been murdered as clearly as yesterday.
I was driving my aunt to work in central Perth. As I drove towards Williams Street, I saw the newspaper billboard with the stark banner: President Kennedy Shot Dead.
I didn't want to believe it - I don't think anyone anywhere wanted to believe it. I will never forget that day.
Life went on of course, but things were never quite the same.
Jim Cross, Australia
I was 12 years old, in seventh grade at Preston City School, six miles from Norwich, Connecticut.
We were in English class, having just returned from lunch. The school secretary, a very refined Southern lady, Mrs Bice, came to our classroom and asked, "Mr Hughes, do you have a radio or anything? The President and the Governor have just been shot."
I next recall the voice of a CBS Radio newscaster saying, "Ladies and gentlemen, the President of the United States is dead" followed by the playing of the National Anthem.
I can scarcely think of the incident without feeling a good deal of emotion.
Robert Paine, USA
The USA felt like a new era had begun for our country. We had so much faith in democracy and a lot of faith in John to run the country, for the best of all mankind.
There was just a feeling that no matter what problem we had President Kennedy would get us through it.
Since his death, this country has gone into a slump -except for the Clinton years where hope seemed to emerge again.
Now we are at the bottom of the rung, in every category you can think of - politically, socially, economically, and viewed very poorly around the world.
Compare the lack of leadership now to what we had with President Kennedy.
When President Kennedy was shot, I was in the 6th grade and a special messenger went to every room and announced that he was shot, as we didn't have a public address system.
A few minutes later he returned with the very sad news that he had passed.
He was a young and energetic President with great goals and ideas that were short coming in his death.
The world loss to this great man has never healed.
Greg Larson, USA
I was 10 years old and in the fifth grade in Vallejo, California.
I went home for lunch as usual and found both my parents home glued to the TV (which was unusual).
These strange twangy Texas accents were dominating the airwaves.
The news had just been flashed that the President of the USA had just died.
It was just unbelievable. An assassination just like Lincoln or McKinley. I had thought that things like this just did not happen anymore. It was like being thrown into an historical time warp.
When we returned to school after lunch the news had already been broken.
There was more shock than sadness. However 1963 was a time when decorum prevailed. Everyone was respectful.
Rick Jones, Czech Republic
I was a five-year-old Catholic growing up in Northern Ireland at the time.
We didn't have TV, and I obviously couldn't fully grasp the radio reports, but I sensed that something terrible had happened.
My abiding memory is of my mother crying on the way to Mass that Sunday (24th) and me not really understanding why.
I remember later that day she kept gazing at a picture on the wall and crying again, and all the adults were talking in hushed tones.
I had no sense of a death - just a great sorrow in the house.
In later years I realised that the picture on the wall was a double portrait of Pope John 23rd and JFK.
It was quite common in those days for Irish Catholic families to have this double portrait in their houses.
To this day, I still remember coming home for lunch when I was 12 years old and seeing my mother crying. She told me that President Kennedy had been shot.
It changed my life forever. I felt a terrible sadness that has never left me. Forty-two years later I look back and see it as a loss of childhood innocence and the loss of a great leader.
Tim Gabriel, USA
I remember this horrible day quite vividly. I was in the 4th grade at an elementary school in Washington State.
The principal came in and whispered something to my teacher (Mrs Rainer). She began to cry, her hands covering her face.
Our Principal (Mr Barra) then told our class. Some of the kids were confused. I know that we all sat in silence for 10 minutes. It was a very sad, shocking time.
Bobbette Olson, USA
I was in my first year at grammar school and it was our speech night at the Free Trade Hall in Manchester. I was in the school choir and backstage waiting to go on when the rumours started to circulate.
The headmaster went on stage and made a brief announcement to the audience. The effect of such shocking news on a concert hall full of unsuspecting people was highly emotional.
Tony Elwood, UK
My mother rushed into the bathroom where I was taking my bath and announced the shooting of Kennedy. I asked her who was Kennedy?
I don't know what shocked her more on that day, the shooting, or my ignorance? Was being only nine years old an acceptable excuse?
George Bonanos, Greece
I was 11 years old and living in Memphis Tennessee at the time. I'll never forget that day.
Even then I knew that President Kennedy was different than all the other presidents we have had.
I also identified with his religion, which at the time I was catholic. I'll never forget when I heard the announcement of his death.
I was delivering flyers for a local company and was dropping off a flyer at a local barbershop when I heard the news on the television. I was stunned and saddened. I still miss President Kennedy.
David Miller, USA
I was 17 at the time and in the front room tape recording an 'American forces in Germany' broadcast when a newsflash came across that Kennedy had been shot.
My family who were in the back room watching TV didn't believe me. It must have been half-an-hour at least before a TV announcement was made.
Bill Cody, Scotland
I was in 6th grade (10 years old) in Granada Hills, California. Our class was interrupted and we were taken outside to form into lines.
We were told the president was dead. A few people burst into tears, the entire faculty seemed distraught by the news, and we were sent home early.
As a 10 year old, it had no real significance for me aside from the distress it caused adults close to me.
I do recall that even a year later a few of the girls in my glass would still burst into tears at the reminder of the assassination I never did (and still don't) understand how someone my own age could have been so political at that age to feel it so deeply.
It took a few years before I understood the depths of meaning of the event. I still vividly recall the "Life Magazine" and TV coverage of the funeral. Thanks for the opportunity to record this I haven't thought about it in such detail for years.
I was a fifth grader at Meadowvale Elementary School, Havre de Grace, Maryland when Mrs Wilson announced to our class that President Kennedy had died.
We were released from school. When I got home we watched all of the news about the assassination.
Mom came home at her usual time. It was the first time that I had seen my mother cry. She had voted for President Kennedy in 1960. She wore a yellow polka dotted dress to go vote.
Charles Strong, USA
I was standing on the deck of the USS Saratoga a new 17 year-old-sailor. The captain of the ship had been piped off 10 minutes earlier.
When he was piped back aboard it was a surprise he could have sent someone back for his keys or whatever. The 1MC came on and it was him "This is the captain speaking".
"The president of the United States John F Kennedy was shot and killed. 4000 men on the ship were stunned into silence. I really don't remember much more of that day.
Barry Weiser, US
I was in 3rd grade and remember Mother Superior coming over the intercom saying the president had been shot. We all got down on our knees and began praying.
I remember looking out the window and seeing a silver jet flying very high up in the sky, leaving a vapour trail. I thought: "There he goes."
At that moment, a nun came into the room and cried that the president was dead. We were sent home for the day and I found my mother crying.
It was my little brother's birthday, and we went ahead and had the party anyway - the kids playing and laughing while the parents sat around whispering and looking distraught.
Jeff Bray, South Dakota
It was my ninth birthday party. We had a tiny black and white television and there was a news flash. It put a damper on the jelly and ice cream but none of us really knew who JFK was.
Peter Sas, UK
It is one of my earliest memories, I was five years old sitting at our kitchen table colouring when the radio news announced that the president had been shot.
My mother cried "oh no" and began crying, before she turned on the TV, and telephoned my dad at his office.
JFK was a hero in the homes of all Irish-Catholics in the USA. my home included, and his death was incredibly tragic.
Tim Murphy, USA
Seventh grade in a Catholic school taught by nuns from Tullamore, Ireland.
The secretary came in crying. Sister Dolores went to the office and soon the radio was on the loudspeakers. We went outside and everyone was crying. Our parents came to take us home and we watched TV for days. I am still not over it.
Kurt Mueller, USA
It was like a day where everything just stopped. Children send home school, businesses closed, no traffic, just silence.
Grandmothers coming to our home, because my mother was due to give birth at anytime, and did on the 26th to Jacqueline Ann, in honour of Mrs Kennedy.
Maureen Atkinson, USA
I was a very young boy, we were let out of class, as the teachers were crying, mom was in tears, my twin sister and I were crying. We (my sister and I) kept saying poor president Kennedy. As an Irish American family we were devastated. then came the Vietnam War.
Tom Ross, USA
I was a student in the 4th grade. My teacher, Mrs Bullard, came into the classroom and told us that President Kennedy had been assassinated.
There was silence because not one of us had any idea what "assassinated" meant Over the next few years, how many times would my classmates and I hear that ugly word. How much better would the world have been had we never learned the meaning.
Jerry Rhodes, USA
I was 10 years old, in fifth grade in Grand Island, Nebraska. A little after 0100 CST, our teacher left the room and a minute later came back white as a sheet and she was crying.
She told us the president had been shot. The classroom and my fellow students reactions, especially our teacher, Mrs Judy Eversoll, will be forever etched in my mind.
Andrew McGovern, USA When JFK was assassinated, I was a little girl of seven years old. It was a sad thing for my household, all the adults and teenagers were crying. My mother made sure every news broadcast was viewed, and just shook her head saying what a wonderful man he was.
In my little world, I watched every moment to see his daughter because I felt sorry for her that she wouldn't have her father anymore. This was a moment in history that will never be forgotten by anybody that was alive at that time.
M Haley, USA
I was five years old when President Kennedy was killed. Just a day or two before that day in Dallas, my mother took me to downtown San Antonio to see the president drive by in a motorcade very much like the one he died in.
I saw him from maybe 15 feet away for a second. Boy, I wanted to be president! Just a day or so later, it occurred to me that maybe that wasn't such a good idea.
My parents were devastated at the news. But what I remember the most were kids at school whose parents were GLAD Kennedy was dead. And that was my first experience with hateful Republicans.
William Bogy, USA
I can flash back extremely clear to the moment I heard the news - back to being 14 in my 8th Grade Language Class, 1315 hours, a chilly but clear day.
The school principal announced over the PA system that President Kennedy was shot and seriously wounded. I remember looking at the clock on the wall as if I knew that I would want to note the time.
A couple of minutes later, the principal announced that a "neural surgeon" had been called to the hospital in Dallas that was treating the president. in another few minutes, that President Kennedy had died.
There was a shocked silence, disbelief followed by deep sorrow, anger, frustration, loss, and then fear. Most of us had identified with John Kennedy because of his youth, vigour, optimism, and the hope he gave to our country. He was a hero to my generation.
This was the day, the moment, we lost that hope, were yanked into the world of reality, and were changed forever. The country was changed forever. Government and authority were never trusted to the same degree. And I lost another hero five years later when JFK's brother was killed.
Sam DeFilipps, USA
The funeral ceremony was a shambles as no protocols were disseminated beforehand to instruct people what physical responses would be appropriate during the ceremony. The majority of the congregation were not Catholic so were unfamiliar with the norms.
President de Gaulle was a Catholic but he had an idiosyncratic view of how he should act, based on military practice and local French traditions. His procedures, however, were followed by many.
The Kennedy clan were Catholic, but so numbed by the assassination, that their responses were often chaotic but again copied by others in the congregation. Some of the various representatives were Catholic and followed correct procedures and these were copied by others in their part of the cathedral.
People were sitting, standing, kneeling all over the place, most at different times. Reporting of all this was much muted by the press as it was considered disrespectful at the time in light of the momentousness of the occasion.
Brian Lucas, Malaysia
I was eleven years old, attending the Marshall School in South Orange NJ. Our 6th grade class was outside playing softball. Our 6th grade teacher, Mr Parker (from Georgia who always sported a bowtie as was always a gentleman) was umpiring the game.
I was playing short stop and outfield. A man in a raincoat and a hat walked in our direction and approached our teacher and whispered to him that the president was shot. Our teacher immediately called a recess and sent us home.
The greatest shock, most awful, life long lingering loss ever. I loved President Kennedy his orations, his vision for the future of our greatest nation and the intensity of his inspiration compelling us to dream the impossible dream and to excel for humankind. A leadership since unparalleled worldwide.
His murder is no conspiracy the CIA (including Allan Dulles), the Pentagon, the mob, the oil click, and the hate mongrels killed the best president America and the American people ever had in contemporary political history.
And in the end, today, in 2005, the very first year American media has ignored this assassination, the same powers responsible for his murder then have usurped and destroyed the America of my childhood's lifeblood.
I was seven years old at the time and visiting relatives in Akron, Ohio. The television was on and then went black as Walter Cronkite's voice spoke of a shooting in Dallas. I don't remember any hysterics, just shock and numbness.
I sat on my father's lap as we watched the funeral. He shed one tear, as I recall and said "Well, that's it.". I doubt we will ever know who the perpetrator of this crime was, but I do know who benefited. RIP John Kennedy.
Mary Jane Love, USA
I was in the second grade at Loma Portal Elementary School in San Diego, California. Our school schedule included a one-hour block for lunch and sports. At the end of the sports hour, a bell rang and each class required to line up at a designated spot on the sports field and wait for the teacher to lead the students back to the classroom.
I had been near the meeting spot when the bell rang, and hence was first in my class line. One of my classmates, who had walked home for lunch, was clutching a transistor radio and listening with an earphone.
Knowing that radios were contraband at school, I asked him why he brought the radio to school. He said, "Sssh. listen. President Kennedy has been shot and he may die."
There was no announcement made at school. The teachers were pulled out of class, one by one, and told the news by the principal, but each teacher was given leeway as to what to tell the students. Our teacher, a stoic, middle-aged spinster from Scotland, evidently felt that such terrible news should be delivered by the parents at home, and that there was no point in upsetting a classroom full of seven and six year-olds.
As a result, while I walked home knowing that the President had been shot, I did not learn the JFK had died until I arrived at home, where our housekeeper broke the sad news to me.
The assassination happened on the Friday before Thanksgiving. The funeral--a national day of mourning--was the following Monday, and most offices and institutions were closed. The following day, Tuesday, was back to school and work as usual.
I arrived in my classroom on Tuesday to find our German-born custodian, Mr Warnecke, hanging a black cloth drape over our classroom flag. I had never seen this practice before and asked him why he was doing it. He shook his head, gathered his tools, and began to sob as he walked out of the room. Our teacher explained that when a flag is fixed on a pole and cannot be lowered, the alternative protocol is to drape the flag in black cloth.
I will never forget Mr Warnecke's tears--triggered by a seven-year-old's innocent question for as long as I live. He seemed to symbolize our nation's grief that dark week.
No matter what books are published about JFK or his assassination, no matter the gossip, conjecture, etc, it really doesn't matter to those of us alive at the time who heard him, saw him, were touched by him, even at the age of 11 years his greatness is immortalized.
James Sperber, USA
I was 12, living in Milton, Massachusetts, when the frightening reports came over the radio and TV. As this was the state from which President Kennedy had risen to his high political stature, we were particularly decimated by the news of his death.
It was the first truly shocking event of the post-war era. Nobody thought the leader of the free world could possibly be murdered with all his secret service protection, particularly while riding in the streets of his own nation.
Sadly, too many world leaders have been assassinated in the years that followed and the notion of political murder is no longer surprising. The only international shock comparable since then is the unbelievable tragedy of September 11, 2001.
Dennis O'Brien, USA
I was 11 years old in 1963. On Friday 22 November 1963 around 2000 hours I was kicking a ball around in the street with some friends. My father came out of the house and said John Kennedy had been shot. I remember that evening so very clear, even after 42 years.
Brian Alexander, UK
I remember the night he was killed, I had just come home from work, I was junior at the Daily Mirror in Holborn, London.
I remember a lady next door had just had a baby, she came into our house in hysterics, thinking there was going to be a war.
Geraldine Robinson, England
That day, two days before my 12th birthday, I was in school. It came over the loud speaker that the president was shot. We all began to cry. As I ran home I could see and hear people crying all up and down the street. It was a sad day.
Anthony Armstrong, USA
I was in first grade at St. Robert's School in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. The Principal, a Nun (Sister David Marie, I believe was her name) announced over the loudspeaker that the president had been shot and we were all instructed to stand and say a rosary.
While we were saying our rosary, Sister came back on the loudspeaker and announced that JFK had died. I didn't really understand the enormity of it until I arrived home from school and found my Mother crying. She was inconsolable.
Elizabeth Barry Ernst, USA
I was in tenth grade, at Clifton-Fine Central School, in Star Lake, New York, a school located in a sparsely populated part of northern New York about two hours from Montreal.
An announcement came over the school's PA system that President Kennedy had been shot. There was no other information. Everyone sat in stunned silence. I remember feeling frightened, confused, and grief stricken.
At the end of the class period we returned to our homerooms and were sent home early. Our school bus, filled with normally raucous teenagers, was almost completely silent on the ride home. Some of us were tearful.
When I arrived home I met my Mother, who had been crying, heard the television, and learned that the President had died.
I felt overwhelmed with grief and fright. As a child of the cold war I had participated in absurd nuclear war drills at school (kneeling in halls, hands above head), lived through the Cuban missile crisis as a 12-year old, and was keenly aware of the possibility of nuclear war.
This Summer, at the Sixth Floor Museum in Dallas, TX, I stood next to Oswald's "sniper's nest" and re-experienced the horror of this event in a way no movie could ever provide.
Among many other things, I learned how deeply individuals mourned the loss of President Kennedy throughout the world. I highly recommend this museum.
Laura Sutherland, Milwaukee, USA I was a student in Grade 6 at Glencoe Public School. Word of President Kennedy's assassination reached us during the afternoon recess, while I was standing talking to my cousin Brian in the back yard of the school, reserved for male students.
The yard was being supervised by Mr Desjardins, one of the tougher teachers in the school. Suddenly Jerry, one of the tougher young lads in the school, ran out from inside, halted next to Mr Desjardins and yelled, "Holy [f-word]! Kennedy's been shot!"
I knew something was wrong when Mr Desjardins didn't hit Jerry. I asked Brian what it meant. "Don't you know, you stupid so-and-so?" he replied, and proceeded to explain to me the meaning of the f-word!
Jim Diamond, Canada
I was fourteen and we had emigrated to the U.S. We were travelling to stay with relatives in Easthampton in the Kennedy's home state of Massachussetts.
Just a few miles short of our destination the news came on the car radio that the president had been shot but there were no more details.
We got to Easthampton and our relatives greeted us very sombrely, they asked if we'd heard the news? They told us that it was confirmed Kennedy had died.
We had to go out to get some supplies and everywhere was deathly quiet. We went in to a drug store and and hardware store and the assistants in both, men and women, were weeping quietly as they served us.
Stuart Gilbert, England
I was only 10 years old when President Kennedy was assassinated. I was living in Waco Texas, about 70 miles from Dallas. Only looking back at that day can I now appreciate how his death impacted the country. As a child I did not understand the reaction of the adults around me.
We were released early from school that day, with no explanation given to us. Our teachers were shattered, many crying openly as we left the school. We heard indirectly that the President had been killed, but we really didn't understand, to us we were just going home early for the Thanksgiving break.
Without exception every adult I encountered for days was grim, and unsmiling. We sat glued to the television sets, which were broadcasting 24 hours a day, something we had never seen happen before. Everyone was focussed on their television sets, desparate for the slightest new bit of information. I remember the shame we felt in Texas that this had happened here.
Being from the wrong generation, I never understood how JFK impacted people, I still don't, I just remember a nation unified in it's grief.
Jerry Lindsay, USA
Lessons of the Martin Luther King Assassination
If Martin Luther King Jr. were alive today&mdashhe would have turned 82 last week&mdashhe would in all likelihood be in Arizona, marching against the forces of violence. Not that he'd be particularly welcome there. Arizona, of course, is the state whose former governor, Evan Mecham, made headlines back in the 1980s defending the word "pickaninny" and scrapping the state's observance of the MLK holiday. King's views on the Second Amendment would be suspect in many parts of this heat-packin' state&mdasha place where firearm ownership, entwined with a certain strain of reactionary patriotism, has in some quarters reached the level of High Creed.
A surprising number of Arizonans love their gun shows, their firing ranges, their border posses, their libertarian civics classes, their Ayn Rand novels, their Wild West laws allowing them to carry concealed weapons pretty much anywhere they've got a hankering to go. Tombstone, with its O.K. Corral, is a national shrine dedicated to the blunt grandeur of the shootout. In Palin-speak, Arizona doesn't need to reload&mdashit carries a 33-round clip.
King would be in Arizona for many reasons, but the main one is this: throughout his career, he was absolutely committed to nonviolence as both a philosophy and a tactic. He did not believe in bodyguards, certainly not armed ones. No one in his entourage was allowed to carry a gun or nightstick or any other weapon. The very concept of arming oneself was odious to him&mdashit violated his Gandhian principles. He wouldn't even let his children carry toy guns. In an almost mystical sense, he believed nonviolence was a more potent force for self-protection than any weapon. He understood the threats against him but refused to let them alter the way he lived.
Far from being timid, King's pacifism had a confrontational edge. His marches often attracted violence and served as powerful magnets for turmoil and hate. That was their purpose, in fact&mdashto expose through choreographed drama a social evil for all to see, preferably with cameras rolling.
So everywhere King went, the threat, and often the reality, of violence loomed. His grace and courage in the teeth of this hostility were otherworldly, and they're something I think about every MLK Day. His house was firebombed. He was punched in the face by a Nazi. He was hit in the head with a rock. In 1958, a psychotic black woman stabbed him with a letter opener while he was signing books at a Harlem department store. Though King nearly died in that incident&mdashthe blade came within a hair's breadth of his aorta&mdashhe refused to press charges. The day before he was killed, King's plane to Memphis received a bomb threat. The possibility of death was such a constant in his life that he adopted a futile acceptance of it. "If someone wants to kill me," he said in Memphis, "there's nothing I can do about it."
Sadly, the events in Arizona last week carry many odd hints and echoes of the events in the spring of 1968 that culminated in King's death at the hands of James Earl Ray. Then, as now, the country was fighting an intractable and apparently interminable war against a hard-to-find enemy on the other side of the planet&mdasha conflict that had drained the nation's coffers and left the populace fatigued and paranoid. Then, as now, the airwaves seethed with reactionary speech. Then, as now, gun sales were going up, up, up.
Ray, the Illinois-born career criminal who was convicted in 1969 and served the rest of his life in prison, was not a psychotic lunatic in the way that Jared Lee Loughner apparently is. But he was certainly a deeply nutty and disturbed man&mdashin ways that said much about American society in the late 1960s. A lone wolf with a permanent smirk, Ray yearned for a purpose and a goal. He was an empty vessel of the culture, filling his cheerless hours with self-help advice, national fads, and the constant natter of the news. In the months before the assassination, he took dancing lessons, got a nose job, underwent hypnosis, enrolled in a locksmithing course, dabbled in the porn business, investigated the immigration policies of Rhodesia, shopped for rifles, and campaigned for the racist presidential candidate George Wallace. A welter of jumbled stimuli flooded into what was essentially an incoherent identity: on a profound level, Ray didn't know who he was.
Certainly the culture of hate&mdashomnipresent in 1968, just as it is now&mdashwas complicit in Ray's crime. George Wallace may or may not have understood the far-reaching consequences of the statements he was putting out in 1968. He wasn't literally saying, "Go kill King." Yet Wallace and other segregationists created an inflamed environment in which a confused but also ambitious man like Ray could think it was permissible, perhaps even noble, to murder King. The signals Ray was picking up enabled him to believe that society would smile on his crime.
What a sordid tradition of violence we have in our country&mdashand what an alarming record of assassinations and assassination attempts. Perhaps it's the dark flip side of our extraordinary personal freedoms. The ease with which a person can move about this huge country, melt into communities, develop new identities&mdashand buy high-powered weapons, no questions asked&mdashhas proved a formula for national heartache. Ray and now Loughner are just two in a long line of American nobodies who've left their permanent stain on our history.
Why did he do it? That's still the toughest question of all with Ray&mdashand no doubt will be with Loughner, too. It's hard to find a clean rational explanation for what is, fundamentally, an insane act of violence. Because Ray lied all the way to his grave, we may never know the real answer, or if there even was one. I've come to think that he was guided not by a single motivation but by a cluster of submotivations that spun in the blender of his unsettled mind. Yes, he was a racist. Yes, he wanted money. Yes, he was a troubled sociopath&mdashhis skewed thoughts intensified by a lifetime of using amphetamines. But what really motivated him, I'm convinced, was a desire for recognition. Herein lies a paradox: though he spent his criminal career striving for anonymity, he desperately wanted the world to know he existed. He longed to do something bold and lasting. Like a certain deranged young man in Tucson last week, Ray imagined the best way to leave his mark was to gun down someone young, eloquent, and charismatic.
I am not one of those people who believe that MLK achieved more in martyrdom than he could have if he'd lived: imagine what a guiding influence he could have on the world were he still among us. If we can't have him in Arizona today, we can at least call on his spirit. And we must.
Sides is the author of Hellhound on His Trail, a narrative history of the King assassination, out in paperback this March from Anchor.
This Day in History: 06/8/1968 - King Assassination Suspect - HISTORYYou may have assumed that the Presidential limosine that carried President Kennedy through Dallas on November 22, 1963 was taken out of service after the assassination. But that would be incorrect. Four more presidents used it afterwards. The photo above is from LBJ's term. (Photo source: Flickr user That Hartford Guy via Creative Commons license.)
On Oct. 5, 1964, President Lyndon B. Johnson joined a visiting head of state, Philippines President Diosdad Macapagal, in a 25-minute noontime parade through downtown Washington. In the annals of Presidential events, it was unremarkable, save for one odd and unsettling detail. LBJ and Macapagal rode thorugh the capital's streets in the same customized black 1961 Lincoln limousine in which, not quite a year before, President John F. Kennedy had been killed by a sniper as he rolled in a motorcade through the streets of Dallas.
It may seem puzzlingly strange, even macabre, that LBJ — who had been riding two cars behind JFK in Dallas — would reuse the same car in which his predecessor had been slain. But apparently, the Secret Service decided that it was faster and more economical to recycle JFK's old Lincoln than it was to order the building of a new Presidential parade limousine. Those who'd seen JFK in the limousine in Dallas might not have recognized it. The navy blue Lincoln no longer was a convertible, having been equipped with a bulletproof metal-and-glass hardtop roof. There were numerous other security modifications as well, which bystanders couldn't see.
The strange saga of JFK's recycled death car began a few years before, when the Secret Service decided to add a new car to the fleet of 10 1950 Lincolns that Harry Truman and Dwight Eisenhower had used, whose roofs had been modified to provide with extra headroom to accommodate the tophats that once were the fashion for chiefs of state.
The President's new car started out as a stock 1 961 Lincoln Continental 4-door convertible, manufactured at Ford's plant in Wixom, Mich. in January 1961. The auto maker then sent it to another company, Hess & Eisenhardt, in Cincinnati, Oh., which customized it to serve as a parade limousine. That involved fairly radical alternations, including cutting the car in half and adding a 3-and-a-half-foot section to the middle. According to Popular Mechanics, the vehicle — code-named X-100 by the Secret Service — was the most sophisticated presidential limousine that had ever been built. Its equipment included a pair of radio telephones, interior floodlights, spotlight-illuminated flagstaffs on the fenders, and a rear seat equipped with a hydraulic lift capable of raising it 11 inches off the floor. But the car's crowning feature was its set of three removable roofs — a standard cloth convertible roof, another of lightweight metal, and a third of transparent plastic. The roofs were composed of multiple removable panels that could be used separately or in different combinations, depending upon the weather and the President's wishes.
The designers' intention was to make the President more visible to spectators — a decision that would seem ill-considered after Nov. 22, 1963. For all its sophisticated features, the car was woefully short on protection against attack. It wasn't armored, and even if the plastic bubbletop hadn't been removed that day because of the clearing skies over Dallas, the Warren Commission report would note that it "was neither bulletproof nor bullet-resistant."
After the assassination, the limousine was scoured by investigators for evidence. The windshield, which had been hit by the third bullet fired by assassin Lee Harvey Oswald, was removed by the FBI and Secret Service, and became Exhibit (CE) 350 of the Warren Commission.
You might suspect that after that, the car would have been set aside as an historical artifact. Instead, oddly, the fateful Lincoln was shipped back to Ohio, where Hess & Eisenhardt rebuilt it for further use, and then to Ford's experimental garage in Dearborn, Mich., where final touches were made. Reportedly, the $500,000 overhaul replaced 80 percent of the vehicle. According to a 1964 Associated Press dispatch, the customizers added 1,600 pounds of metal and other materials to the car, reinforcing the body with armor plate and replacing its glass with special panes that reportedly were capable of withstanding a direct hit from a 30-caliber rifle round. The interchangeable roofs were replaced with a bulletproof hardtop and a 1,500-pound rear window that, at the time, was the largest piece of curved bullet-resistant glass ever fabricated, according to Popular Mechanics. Additionally, large metal handgrips were installed on each side of the back trunk so that, if needed, Secret Service agents could jump onto the vehicle while it rolled down the street. Special puncture-proof tires were mounted on the wheels. Finally, the rear compartment was refurbished, to eliminate any damage from JFK's killing.
In 1967, the car got a second overhaul, which included another paint job — LBJ reportedly disliked the navy blue, so it was changed to black — an upgraded air conditioning system, and conversion of the fixed right-rear door window into one that could be rolled down. According to Popular Mechanics, the car also received structural reinforcments, a modification necessitated after a playful leap by LBJ caused the original rear deck behind the seat to collapse.
After LBJ left office, his successor, Richard Nixon, who apparently was less security-conscious than LBJ, added yet another modification — a new glass roof with a hinged panel, so that the President could stand during parades.
X-100 continued to be used by Presidents until it was retired in 1977. It is now part of the collection at the Henry Ford Museum in Dearborn.
Following the Camp David Accords, Sadat and Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin shared the 1978 Nobel Peace Prize. However, the subsequent 1979 Egypt–Israel Peace Treaty was received with controversy among Arab nations, particularly the Palestinians. Egypt's membership in the Arab League was suspended (and not reinstated until 1989).  PLO Leader Yasser Arafat said "Let them sign what they like. False peace will not last."  In Egypt, various jihadist groups, such as Egyptian Islamic Jihad and al-Jama'a al-Islamiyya, used the Camp David Accords to rally support for their cause.  Previously sympathetic to Sadat's attempt to integrate them into Egyptian society,  Egypt's Islamists now felt betrayed, and publicly called for the overthrow of the Egyptian president and the replacement of the nation's system of government with a government based on Islamic theocracy.  A fatwa approving the assassination had been obtained from Omar Abdel-Rahman, a cleric later convicted in the US for his role in the 1993 World Trade Center bombing. [ citation needed ]
The last months of Sadat's presidency were marked by internal uprising. He dismissed allegations that the rioting was incited by domestic issues, believing that the Soviet Union was recruiting its regional allies in Libya and Syria to incite an uprising that would eventually force him out of power. Following a failed military coup in June 1981, Sadat ordered a major crackdown that resulted in the arrest of numerous opposition figures. Though he still maintained high levels of popularity in Egypt, it has been said that he was assassinated "at the peak" of his unpopularity. 
Egyptian Islamic Jihad Edit
Earlier in Sadat's presidency, Islamists had benefited from the "rectification revolution" and the release from prison of activists jailed under Gamal Abdel Nasser,  but his Sinai treaty with Israel enraged Islamists, particularly the radical Egyptian Islamic Jihad. According to interviews and information gathered by journalist Lawrence Wright, the group was recruiting military officers and accumulating weapons, waiting for the right moment to launch "a complete overthrow of the existing order" in Egypt. Chief strategist of El-Jihad was Abbud al-Zumar, a colonel in the military intelligence whose "plan was to kill the main leaders of the country, capture the headquarters of the army and State Security, the telephone exchange building, and of course the radio and television building, where news of the Islamic revolution would then be broadcast, unleashing—he expected—a popular uprising against secular authority all over the country." 
In February 1981, Egyptian authorities were alerted to El-Jihad's plan by the arrest of an operative carrying crucial information. In September, Sadat ordered a highly unpopular roundup of more than 1,500 people, including many Jihad members, but also the Coptic Pope and other Coptic clergy, intellectuals and activists of all ideological stripes.  All non-government press was banned as well.  The roundup missed a jihad cell in the military led by Lieutenant Khalid Islambouli, who would succeed in assassinating Anwar Sadat that October. 
According to Tala'at Qasim, ex-head of the Gama'a Islamiyya interviewed in Middle East Report, it was not Islamic Jihad but his organization, known in English as the "Islamic Group", that organized the assassination and recruited the assassin (Islambouli). Members of the Group's "Majlis el-Shura" ("Consultative Council")—headed by the famed "blind shaykh"—were arrested two weeks before the killing, but they did not disclose the existing plans, and Islambouli succeeded in assassinating Sadat. 
On 6 October 1981, a victory parade was held in Cairo to commemorate the eighth anniversary of Egypt's crossing of the Suez Canal.  Sadat was protected by four layers of security and eight bodyguards, and the army parade should have been safe due to ammunition-seizure rules. As Egyptian Air Force Mirage jets flew overhead, distracting the crowd, Egyptian Army soldiers and troop trucks towing artillery paraded by. One truck contained the assassination squad, led by Lieutenant Khalid Islambouli. As it passed the tribune, Islambouli forced the driver at gunpoint to stop. From there, the assassins dismounted and Islambouli approached Sadat with three hand grenades concealed under his helmet. Sadat stood to receive his salute Anwar's nephew Talaat El Sadat later said, "The president thought the killers were part of the show when they approached the stands firing, so he stood saluting them",  whereupon Islambouli threw all his grenades at Sadat, only one of which exploded (but fell short), and additional assassins rose from the truck, indiscriminately firing AK-47 assault rifles and Port Said submachine guns into the stands until they had exhausted their ammunition, and then attempted to flee. After Sadat was hit and had fallen to the ground, people threw chairs around him to shield him from the hail of bullets.
The attack lasted about two minutes. Sadat and ten others were killed outright or suffered fatal wounds, including Major General Hassan Allam, Khalfan Nasser Mohammed (a general from the Omani delegation), Eng. Samir Helmy Ibrahim, Al Anba' Samuel, Mohammed Yousuf Rashwan (the presidential photographer), Saeed Abdel Raouf Bakr, Chinese engineer Zhang Baoyu [zh] ,  as well as the Cuban ambassador to Egypt, and a Coptic Orthodox bishop, Anba Samuel of Social and Ecumenical Services.
Twenty-eight were wounded, including Vice President Hosni Mubarak, Irish Defence Minister James Tully, and four US military liaison officers. Security forces were momentarily stunned, but reacted within 45 seconds. The Swedish ambassador Olov Ternström managed to escape unhurt.   One of the attackers was killed, and the three others injured and arrested. Sadat was airlifted to a military hospital,  where eleven doctors operated on him. [ citation needed ] He died nearly two hours after he was taken to the hospital.  Sadat's death was attributed to "violent nervous shock and internal bleeding in the chest cavity, where the left lung and major blood vessels below it were torn." 
In conjunction with the assassination, an insurrection was organized in Asyut in Upper Egypt. Rebels took control of the city for a few days, and 68 policemen and soldiers were killed in the fighting. Government control was not restored until paratroopers from Cairo arrived. Most of the militants convicted of fighting received light sentences and served only three years in prison. 
Sadat was buried in the Unknown Soldier Memorial, located in the Nasr City district of Cairo. The inscription on his grave reads: "The hero of war and peace". 
At first, Sadat was succeeded by Sufi Abu Taleb as Acting President of Egypt for eight days until 14 October 1981, when Sadat's Vice President, Hosni Mubarak, became the new Egyptian President for nearly 30 years until his resignation as a result of the Egyptian Revolution of 2011.
Islambouli and the other assassins were tried, found guilty, and sentenced to death. They were executed on 15 April 1982, two army men by firing squad and three civilians by hanging. 
What you need to know about the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr.
What you need to know about the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr.
Remembering and honoring Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
Over a half-century ago, Martin Luther King Jr. traveled to Memphis to support and bring attention to a strike by more than 1,300 city sanitation workers, but the journey to Tennessee would cost him his life.
Fifty-one years have passed since one of the nation's most harrowing episodes unfolded, when at 6:05 p.m. an assassin named James Earl Ray took aim with a Remington .30-06 rifle and squeezed off a single shot that changed the trajectory of the civil rights movement.
Why was King in Memphis?
On Feb. 1, 1968, Memphis garbage collectors Robert Walker and Echol Cole were crushed to death when a garbage truck malfunctioned. The incident cast a light on the poor working conditions and low wages of sanitation workers, who were prompted by the deaths of the two men to call for a strike.
Sanitation workers, all of them black, walked off their jobs on Feb. 12 and set up picket lines, toting signs reading, "I Am a Man."
King, a Baptist minister from Atlanta and the country's most famous civil rights activist, had heard about the work stoppage and decided to go to Memphis to bring national attention to the strike. He had already come to national prominence by leading the bus boycott in Montgomery, Alabama, in 1955, after an African-American woman named Rosa Parks was arrested for refusing to give up a front bus seat to a white man.
In the decade following the boycott, King became a civil rights rock star organizing non-violent protests for racial and economic equality. In 1963, he organized a massive march on Washington to demand change, and gave a blistering speech on the National Mall, calling out the federal government for its "apathy and hypocrisy, its betrayal of the cause of justice."
"I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character," King told the crowd.
By the time he went to Memphis, King had been awarded the 1965 Nobel Peace Prize.
Why did King stay at the Lorraine Motel in Memphis?
King and his entourage checked into the Lorraine Motel on April 3, 1968. The Lorraine was one of the few motels in Memphis that was known as friendly to African Americans.
Within hours after checking into Room 306 at the Lorraine, King, battling a bad cold, spoke to an overflow crowd at the Mason Temple Church. Many in the audience were striking sanitation workers. King gave his famous "Mountain Top" speech, in which he spoke of his own mortality, telling the crowd, "I've seen the Promised Land. I may not get there with you. But I want you to know tonight, that we, as a people, will get to the Promised Land."
Where was King going when he was killed?
The next day, April 4, King and his inner circle had been invited to have dinner at the home of the Rev. Samuel Billy Kyles, a Memphis minister. About 6 p.m., King, dressed in his trademark dark suit and tie, emerged from Room 306.
Andrew Young, his close friend and partner in the civil rights movement, yelled up to him to grab his coat because the weather had turned chilly. Before he could answer Young, a shot rang out.
A bullet hit King in the right cheek, shattering his jaw, several vertebrae and severing his spinal cord. He was rushed to St. Joseph's Hospital, where he was pronounced dead at 7:05 p.m.
What happened in the aftermath of King's death?
Word of King's assassination triggered riots in more than 100 cities across the country, including Chicago and Washington, D.C. More than 35 people were killed in the violence.
President Lyndon Johnson, who signed the Civil Rights Act in 1964 after being prompted to act by the movement King spearheaded, designated April 7, 1968, as a national day of mourning. The following day, King's widow, Coretta Scott King, went to Memphis and led the striking sanitation workers in a peaceful march.
On April 8, a funeral for King was held at the Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta. Among those in attendance was former first lady Jacqueline Kennedy and Vice President Hubert Humphrey. Tens of thousands of mourners lined the streets of Atlanta to watch King's casket being carried by two mules to Morehouse College, King's alma mater, for a public memorial service.
A week later, the Memphis sanitation strike ended when the city council agreed to boost the workers' wages and improve working conditions.
When was King's assassin caught?
Ray, a 40-year-old convicted robber and prison escapee, was identified as King's killer after his fingerprint was found on the rifle used in the assassination and discarded near the murder scene. Police believe Ray shot King from a boarding house across from the Lorraine Motel, after stalking the civil rights leader for more than two weeks.
JFK File: FBI Monitored Martin Luther King's 'Abnormal' Sex Life of Orgies, Hookers and Joan Baez
Updated | The Trump administration released an FBI document containing allegations about the sexual misconduct of Martin Luther King as part of its declassification of information relating to the assassination of President John F. Kennedy.
The 1968 document alleges financial improprieties by King's civil rights organization, the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, attempts to tie King to communist organizations and details a series of claims about King's multiple alleged affairs.
It is not clear if any of the information in the dossier was verified. It makes no mention of JFK, and the FBI has not disclosed why it was held as part of a cache of documents relating to the Kennedy assassination.
Former FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover's antipathy to King is well documented, and he went to extreme lengths, including authorising breaking into and bugging King's home and offices, to destroy his reputation. The zeal of the FBI's campaign against King has been outlined in tens of thousands of declassified FBI memos from the 1960s, and Congressional hearings on the FBI's harrassment of King in the 1970s.
The declassified file is not the first time FBI information about King's infidelity has been made public. The wiretaps that recorded information about King's affairs&mdashwhich the FBI tried to use against King&mdashfirst emerged via congressional hearings in the 1970s.
Trump has ordered the National Archive to release all documents relating to the assassination, with the FBI file one of 646 documents from the Kennedy investigation released Friday.
The 20-page file profiles King when he was engaged in his historic campaign for civil rights, and is dated three weeks before his April 4, 1968 assassination.
"The course King chooses to follow at this critical time could have momentous impact on the future of race relations in the United States," the document's introduction reads. "And for that reason this paper has been prepared to give some insight into the nature of the man himself as well as the nature of his views, goals, objectives, tactics and the reasons therefor."
A section of the document entitled "King's Personal Conduct" contains a series of claims about King's extramarital affairs, including a relationship with folk singer Joan Baez.
The document describes the alleged sex acts King engaged in as "unnatural" and "abnormal," and details an orgy that took place during workshops King held in Miami, Florida, in February 1968 with funds from the Ford Foundation to train black ministers in leadership.
"Several Negro and white prostitutes were brought in from the Miami area. An all night-sex orgy was held with these prostitutes and some of the delegates in attendance."
"One room had a large table in it which was filled with whiskey. The two Negro prostitutes were paid $50.00 to put on a sex show for the entertainment of the guests. A variety of sex acts deviating from the normal were observed."
It goes on to label the African-American civil rights organization King led as a "tax dodge" and describes the alleged communist ties of King's associates.
The document was authored while Hoover was director of the FBI. Then Attorney Geberal Robert F. Kennedy had authorized phone tapping surveillance of King as part of the FBI's controversial domestic intelligence program.
Clayborne Carson, the director of the Martin Luther King, Jr. Research and Education Institute and a Stanford University history professor, said the claims in the document were part of a smear campaign in an interview with CNN's Anderson Cooper on Friday night.
"When we look closely at this, what we see is that there is a person who is trying his best to damage Martin Luther King's reputation," Carson said, referring to Hoover.
The document mentions a letter sent to King in 1964 that urged him to commit suicide. A Senate committee later confirmed that the letter, alongside recorded evidence of King's extramarital affairs, had been sent to King by the FBI.
Thousands of documents relating to the Kennedy assassination have been released by the Trump administration in recent weeks, but some were withheld at the request of U.S. intelligence agencies. The withheld documents have been placed under a six month review.
This story was updated on November 4 to include information about the FBI's surveillance of King in the 1960s, and former FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover's antipathy to King.
MLK requested a song minutes before his assassination, and that tune comforted millions
By Robert F. Darden|Contributor
7:00 AM on Mar 28, 2018 CDT
Accounts of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.'s life say he was a singing man. His father, Martin Luther King Sr. ("Daddy King"), said his son had a "fine, clear voice" and was "passionate" about Baptist music.
From the Montgomery bus boycott onward, music was an integral part of the civil rights movement. And the singing came not just from King's lifelong involvement in the church, but also his closest advisers, E.E. King and Bayard Rustin, veteran union activists steeped in labor union protest songs. Those threads came together with the protest spirituals of the Civil War to produce the freedom songs.
With each successive civil rights action — Birmingham, Mississippi, St. Augustine, Selma, Chicago and a hundred more — the freedom songs became the defining sound of the movement. King once called the songs "the soul of the movement."
"Ain't Gonna Let Nobody Turn Me 'Round," "Oh Freedom," "This Little Light of Mine," "Amen," "Up Above My Head," "Hold On" and, of course, "We Shall Overcome" stirred passions, soothed battered souls and bodies, recruited fighters, and inspired onlookers. U.S. Rep. John Lewis. D-Ga., once told me that "without music, the civil rights movement would have been like a bird without wings."
New Year's Eve in 1968 found King and his closest friends at the spacious home of gospel legend Mahalia Jackson, one of his earliest supporters and dearest friends. They spent the evening, she wrote, singing old gospel songs and hymns, sprinkled with a few freedom songs, including his favorite, "Take My Hand, Precious Lord."
But things were changing when King and the movement limped into Memphis in early 1968. The Chicago campaign had been brutal, expensive and inconclusive. King was under renewed attack, even from some of his oldest friends, because of his outspoken opposition to the escalating war in Vietnam. Johnson's open-housing legislation had failed in the Senate. The rise of the Black Panther movement and the "long, hot summer," what theologian James H. Cone has called a "black insurrection," burned through the summer of 1967 and had left King shaken and often discouraged.
The Southern Christian Leadership Conference had originally decided that, rather than another specific city, the organization would focus on the "Poor People's Campaign," an initiative designed to challenge racism and poverty directly and systemically.
But the plight of the Memphis sanitation workers compelled King to repeatedly leave the Poor People's Campaign to speak on behalf of and stand by some of the nation's poorest, most abused workers.
On March 28, an exhausted King returned to Memphis for a demonstration with the sanitation workers, who had continued to march with their "I Am a Man" placards in the face of increasing official oppression. But the parade was marred by a small group of agitators, who used the occasion to smash and loot several stores. The SCLC later came to believe that the offenders had been in the employ of rogue elements in the city or other anti-integrationist groups.
The demonstration and its bloody aftermath left King "despondent," his closest friend, Ralph Abernathy, would write. "I had never seen him so depressed."
King returned to Memphis a few days later, in part to contest a federal judge's restraining order that prohibited "out-of-state residents," including King, from protesting or marching in Memphis.
On the stormy evening of April 3, King, still fatigued and sleeping badly, rested in the Lorraine Hotel. Abernathy had agreed to speak in his place at a rally, but an enthusiastic crowd packed the giant hall. Abernathy begged King to join him, so he wearily drove to the venue and delivered an impromptu speech that would become one of the landmark declamations of the civil rights movement — the "Mountain Top" or "Jericho Road" speech. King warned his listeners, "We've got some difficult days ahead. But it really doesn't matter with me now. Because I've been to the mountain top."
The following day, April 4, popular musician Ben Branch arrived from Chicago. Just before 6 p.m., as King, Jesse Jackson, Abernathy and others prepared to leave for an early dinner before that evening's mass meeting, Branch walked by in the parking lot. From the second floor, King spotted him and called out. In the months that followed, Branch returned to Memphis to record the conversation that followed as closely as he could remember it.
"Man, look, tonight," King said, leaning over the railing from the second floor, "I want you to play 'Precious Lord' tonight like you never played it before."
Startled, Branch responded. "Dr. King, I do that all of the time."
"No, but tonight, especially for me," King said, "I want you to play it pretty tonight."
King stopped, said something to Jackson, then turned back to Branch.
"Man, I tell you, tonight I want that song. I mean, I want you to play it pretty tonight, play it pretty."
Branch said he nodded vigorously. "I'm going to do that," he said.
Satisfied, King smiled and leaned forward slightly. "Don't forget. I mean, I want 'Precious Lord.' Play it tonight."
With that, Martin Luther King turned back to his hotel room to retrieve his coat.
And in that moment, an assassin's bullet changed American history.
In his last words, King called for a gospel song, but not just any gospel song. "Take My Hand, Precious Lord" is universally considered the most popular, most beloved gospel song of all time. Written by the Rev. Thomas A. Dorsey after the tragic death of his wife and infant child in 1932, "Precious Lord" continues to be sung at African American funerals. It is simple, emotional, direct and profound.
In the horrendous days that followed, when African-American pain often turned to rage, and vast swaths of America's cities burned, grief-stricken blacks and whites again and again found solace in "Take My Hand, Precious Lord."
When the massive funeral procession for King (believed to have been more than a quarter million people) from Ebenezer Baptist Church reached Morehouse College, it was Mahalia Jackson who sang it. "She sang out her sorrow," Jackson biographer Laurraine Goreau writes, "sang a plea for forgiveness of mankind, sang for the soul she knew was sitting at Jesus' side. 'Save me a place, Martin. Save me a place.'"
When my way grows drear, precious Lord linger near
When my light is almost gone
Take my hand precious Lord, lead me home
Robert F. Darden is a journalism professor at Baylor University. Portions of this essay were adapted for The Dallas Morning News from his book, Nothing But Love in God's Water, Volume II: Black Sacred Music from Sit-Ins to Resurrection City.
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How MLK's death changed America
By Kevin Cokley|Contributor
11:00 AM on Mar 27, 2018 CDT
The assassinations of civil rights activists Medgar Evers (1963), Malcolm X (1965) and the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. (1968) were stark reminders to black people that the pursuit of freedom and liberation often came at the ultimate cost. The assassination of King was arguably the most consequential for the course of American history and permanently changed the psychology of black people and challenged America's ideals.
Because he was one of the most prominent leaders of the civil rights movement, King's assassination was especially devastating. His optimism offered a stark contrast to Malcolm X's pessimistic and fatalistic view of white America. Guided by a Christian ethic and the philosophies of integration, nonviolence and civil disobedience, King was the moral conscience of a country that had failed to live up to its lofty ideals of the American Dream for black people.
In his book Martin & Malcolm & America: A Dream or a Nightmare, James H. Cone notes that Malcolm X and King were both killed by forces they sought to change. However, whereas Malcolm X was killed "by the blacks he loved and was seeking to liberate from self-hate," King was "killed by the whites he loved and was seeking to set free of racism."
Unlike Malcolm X, who viewed whites as having no moral conscience and America as a nightmare that was doomed for its crimes of slavery and segregation, King possessed a redemptive faith in the goodness of white people. He insisted on loving white people in spite of their treatment of blacks, and he spoke of having a dream that Americans of all racial backgrounds could live in peace and good will.
Whether or not people agreed with him, it was King's appeal to white people's moral conscience and his philosophy of nonviolence that provided him the platform to wield tremendous influence to cause social and political change. Thus, it was incomprehensible that this "drum major for justice" who followed the teachings of Mohandas Gandhi's nonviolent resistance would be assassinated in cold blood.
What kind of country was America that it could produce the type of hatred that would kill a messenger of love and peace? If Rosa Parks' refusal to give up her seat was the spark that invigorated the civil rights movement, King's assassination was the psychological accelerant that threatened to permanently derail it.
Black psychologist William Cross created a black liberation identity model that referenced the psychological impact of King's assassination. In the pre-encounter stage, Cross characterized black people as being politically naïve and dependent on white leadership and a belief in assimilation-integration. These individuals were not actively involved in the civil rights movement.
In the encounter stage, Cross described an experience or event that shattered the individual's feeling about self and his or her interpretation of the condition of blacks in America. King's assassination was an example of a shattering experience that propelled black people into becoming more politically active and into searching for a deeper understanding of the black power movement.
For many blacks, the reality that someone as prominent and righteous as King could be assassinated was a life-altering experience. Black people realized that being patient and trusting the country to eventually do right by black folks was a dream at risk of being permanently deferred. Blacks did not have the luxury of sitting on the sidelines in the pursuit of civil rights. For many, King's assassination aroused what had been a sometimes muted yet simmering anger fueled by injustice toward black Americans.
Upon hearing about King's assassination, civil rights activist and Black Power proponent Stokely Carmichael exclaimed: "When white America killed Dr. King last night, she declared war on us. It would have been better if she had killed Rap Brown . or Stokely Carmichael. But when she killed Dr. King, she lost it . He was the one man in our race who was trying to teach our people to have love, compassion and mercy for white people."
News of King's assassination reverberated across the world. The nation had not been so deeply affected since the assassination of John F. Kennedy. Black people, now angered and emboldened by such a heinous act of violence, engaged in weeks of rioting and urban rebellion that disrupted the country.
The psychological impact of King's assassination endures 50 years later. King taught us that in the ongoing black freedom struggle, he was willing to die for a cause he knew was bigger than himself. He died for black freedom and ultimately trying to save the soul of this country. In many ways his death can be seen as the inheritance of thousands of people and recent social movements.
The Movement for Black Lives is the most direct continuation of King's work, as Black Lives Matter activists have continued the fight for civil rights. Most recently in response to the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooting, the March For Our Lives took place in Washington, D.C. This student-led social movement seeks to pass legislation that effectively addresses gun violence. Interestingly, death by a gun is the common denominator behind these social movements.
As we remember King on this 50 th anniversary of his death, let us reflect on one of his final prophetic statements the night before he was killed: "Like anybody, I would like to live a long life. Longevity has its place. But I'm not concerned about that now. I just want to do God's will . I've seen the promised land. I may not get there with you, but I want you to know tonight that we as a people will get to the promised land."
In the current political climate, that promised land seems farther away than ever before. However, the level of political engagement by today's youth is reason to be optimistic, as they are the embodiment of the meaning of King's life and death.
Kevin Cokley holds an endowed professorship in educational research at the University of Texas at Austin and director of the Institute for Urban Policy Research and Analysis. He wrote this column for The Dallas Morning News. Email: [email protected]
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