I was about 17 years old. It was April 4, 1968. I was a student at a private school for boys in Michigan. I remember it was early evening when one of the kids came running and informed us that Dr. Martin Luther King had been assassinated in Memphis Tennessee. Like many young idealistic american’s I was stunned and drawn to our television. The TV was ablaze with the news, that the Civil Rights leader was gunned down on the balcony of his motel in Memphis on his way to yet another demonstration for city garbage workers striking for fair wages and treatment.
It had been a strange week for Dr. King. His staff had urged him not attend this event. “Martin, you can’t be everywhere at once, you have to draw the line somewhere”. They said. His response was the usual, a briefing from his trusted aides as to what was going on there, and Dr. Kings conclusive reply, “They need me….I’ll be there”.
The night before he fell to the assassins bullet he gave what was to become one of the most compelling speeches of his career. In the speech he said “Like any man I want to live a long life, but I can’t worry about that now, I just want to do Gods will”, He spoke of the mountain top and how he might not get there with them, How one day they would all be free.
It all sounded so prophetic, and yet so appropriate. Then the very next night the giant fell.
While we were watching on TV that night, early, when the word was still filtering out across the nation, Bobby Kennedy stepped up to a Microphone in the Rural South, I think it was, and said that he had some sad news to deliver to you. Dr. Martin Luther King was shot and killed tonight in Memphis Tennessee. Screams and a pained roar arose from the crowd. As Black Americans weeped for their fallen leader Bobby tried to comfort them by reminding them that he understood how they felt, I had a brother who was assassinated too.
November 22, 1963 returned to our minds, as we remembered that day. We all wondered what this world was coming to. A few short months later we would wonder again as Bobby Kennedy lay bleeding on the Kitchen Floor of the Ambassador Hotel in Los Angeles .
For the next few days the nation mourned. Some in pockets of the deep south rejoiced figuring of course that this would end the Civil Rights movement in America.
As the Nation watched an ol’ farm wagon pulled by two mules baring the casket of Dr. King a nation turned out that day to carry him to his final resting place. Deep in our minds we committed ourselves that we would not let Dr. Kings dream die away. The event lifted the civil rights movement and many are sure led to the signing of civil rights legislation.
This day was a sad day then, but when I was reminded of what day this was, the day that Dr. King was murdered, I allowed my mind to return to the early 60’s. I remembered snarling dogs, hoses turned on Black demonstrators, lynchings, and other such events that shook this nation to its core. Some would say that was then….this is now. I would remind them though that complacency only leads to a return to days of yesteryear when if you were deemed undesirable, it was nothing to lynch you, gun you down, or chase you down just because your skin happened to be a different color.
Israel often reminds us of the holocaust, and for good reason. We too should remember from whence we came, where we were, where we are, and pledge to ourselves that we will not forget what was. Dr. King gave his life for a dream. We must pledge our lives to keep Dr. Kings dream alive. Least we forget.
That’s my point of view. I look forward to your insights on the issues of the day.
As usual God Bless America.