“Longevity has its place, but I’m not concerned about that now”
Martin Luther King, Jr was born at Atlanta, Georgia, on 15 January 1929, as Michael Louis King. In 1947 he was ordained a minister and on 18 June 1953 he married a young concert singer named Coretta Scott and they had two sons and two daughters. In August 1957, Martin Luther King and 115 other black leaders founded the Southern Christian Leadership Conference. In September of the following year he narrowly escaped death in New York when a mad black woman stabbed him in the chest with a letter opener. The surgeon who operated said that if King had even sneezed he would have drowned in his own blood through a ruptured aorta.
On 28 August 1963, at the Lincoln monument in Washington DC, King made his most famous speech, around 250,000 people —60,000 of them white — were at the largest civil rights demonstration at which he proclaimed, “I have a dream.” He travelled to Memphis in late March 1968 to help black dustmen who were striking for the right to form a trade union. On Wednesday 3 April 1968, at the Bishop Charles J. Mason Temple, King gave his last public speech. He said, “Like anybody, I would like to live a long life. Longevity has its place, but I’m not concerned about that now.”
On 4 April racist criminal James Earl Ray booked into Room 5B on the second floor of the South Main Street doss house, which provided an unobstructed view of the Lorraine Motel where King was billeted. (Landlady Bessie Brewer later positively identified Ray, who had used the alias John Willard.) At 6.01pm King stood on the balcony outside Room 306 waiting for an aide to fetch him a coat. King was shot in the throat and rushed to St Joseph’s Hospital where he was pronounced dead at 7.05pm.
Lorraine Motel, 450 Mulberry Street, Memphis, Tennessee, USA
6.01pm Thursday 4 April 1968
James Earl Ray fled abroad and on 8 June 1968, 65 days after the assassination, he was arrested at Heathrow, London, trying to fly to Brussels. On 6 March 1969 Ray confessed to the assassination. The prosecution presented their evidence and the judge, W. Preston Battle, passed sentence.
Then, three days later, Ray claimed that he had been pressurized into the guilty plea by his lawyer. The court refused to act after Judge Battle died on 31 March so Ray began telling anyone who would listen of his innocence. He gave dozens of interviews and wrote two books. He claimed that the real killer was a man called Raoul. Ray admitted buying the murder weapon and renting the room but only so that the mysterious Raoul could carry out the assassination. Ray died of kidney failure in prison on 23 April 1998, still protesting his innocence.