On this day: in history (1968), Martin Luther King Jr. was fatally shot by James Earl Ray while standing on the balcony outside his second-story room at the Lorraine Motel in Memphis, Tennessee. The bullet entered through his right cheek, smashing his jaw, then traveled down his spinal cord before lodging in his shoulder.After emergency chest surgery, King died at St. Joseph’s Hospital at 7:05 p.m. According to biographer Taylor Branch, King’s autopsy revealed that though only 39 years old, he “had the heart of a 60 year old”, which Branch attributed to the stress of 13 years in the civil rights movement.
King made a request that at his funeral no mention of his awards and honors be made, but that it be said that he tried to “feed the hungry”, “clothe the naked”, “be right on the (Vietnam) war question”, and “love and serve humanity.”
King was in Memphis to support a sanitation workers’ strike. He gave his last sermon on April 3, saying, “We’ve got some difficult days ahead. But it really doesn’t matter with me now, because I’ve been to the mountaintop…And He’s allowed me to go up to the mountain. And I’ve looked over, and 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.”
The assassination led to a nationwide wave of race riots all over America. 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.
In March 1969, James Earl Ray pleaded guilty to King’s murder in order to avoid the electric chair. He was sentenced to 99 years in prison. He died in 1998.
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Created by Okey Obiabunmo