The following account of Martin Luther King’s last day is lifted from American Public Media:

King spent April 4, 1968 at the Lorraine Motel. He sent Andrew Young down to the federal courthouse to fight the injunction against a second march. Meanwhile, King huddled with other SCLC officials to plan strategy. He shared a plate of fried Mississippi River catfish with Ralph Abernathy.

In the late afternoon, Young returned from court with news that the Monday march could go forward. King pretended to be sore that Young had failed to call him all day. “He began to sort of playfully fuss with me,” Young says. “He picked up a pillow and threw it at me. And I just threw it back. And all of a sudden everybody picked up pillows. And here we are – middle aged men, almost – and we were having a pillow fight like children.”

In the documentary King in the Wilderness, Young says that this was the most relaxed he’d seen Dr. King in a long time. It was as if a weight had been lifted from the great man’s shoulders.

When the rumpus subsided, King and the others got ready to go to dinner at a local minister’s house. King stood on the motel balcony as Jesse Jackson and other organizers got out of a car below. King called down to a young musician who would be playing saxophone at a mass meeting planned for that night. He asked him to play a favorite gospel song, “Precious Lord, Take My Hand.”

As King wondered aloud whether he needed a topcoat, there was a sharp sound. Some thought it was a firecracker, or a car backfiring. Martin Luther King Jr. had been shot in the face. He died shortly afterwards at a hospital.

In the aftermath African-American communities across the nation, quite understandably, went crazy. Many police departments responded violently and by that evening seemingly half the country was in flames.

There were also some inspirational moments among the chaos. Bobby Kennedy, who had only recently decided to run for president, had just arrived for a campaign stop in Indianapolis when he heard that Dr. King had been shot. David Talbot, in his book Brothers, tells the story beautifully; I shan’t reinvent the wheel.

When Kennedy got the news, he was headed for one of the poorest black neighborhoods in Indianapolis, where he was to formally open the state’s Kennedy for President headquarters at an outdoor rally. The chief of police warned him not to go into the ghetto. Fiery riots sparked by King’s murder were already spreading across the country, including in the nation’s capital, where flames lit up the sky just blocks from the Capitol building.

But Kennedy insisted in going ahead with his appearance. When he arrived at his destination, it was dark and cold. He made his way through the crowd and climbed onto a flatbed truck illuminated by floodlights that cast a flickering, funereal glow in the blustery wind. It was Kennedy who brought the people the terrible news that night – the crowd expelled a loud moan as if punched in the gut. And it was he who consoled them….

When an aide rushed up to him beforehand with a sheet of talking points, Kennedy crumpled the notes and and stuffed them in his pocket. He talked to them from his heart, softly and slowly, like he was comforting them in their living room after giving them news of a loved one’s death. And they listened quietly in the evening gloom because, as he reminded them, he too had suffered the death of a loved one.

“For those of you who are black and tempted to be filled with hatred and distrust at the injustice of such an act, against all white people, I can only say that I feel in my heart the same kind of feeling. I had a member of my family killed, but he was killed by a white man. But we have to make an effort to understand, to go beyond these rather difficult times.” It was the first time Kennedy had ever invoked the death of his brother in a public speech in the United States. And then he shared with the crowd how he had learned to bear what was unbearable. Quoting the Aeschylus passage he knew by heart, he reminded them what they already knew, that only time would turn their misery into something higher: “In our sleep, pain which cannot forget falls drop by drop upon the heart until, in our own despair, against our will, comes wisdom through the awful grace of God.” Finally, he urged them not to lash back in anger, but to honor King’s message of peace. “What we need in the United States is not division; what we need in the United States is not hatred; what we need is not violence or lawlessness; but love and wisdom, and compassion toward one another, and a feeling of justice toward those who still suffer in our country, whether they be white or black.

“Let us dedicate ourselves to what the Greeks wrote so many years ago: to tame the savageness of man and make gentle the life of this world.

“Let us dedicate ourselves to that, and say a prayer for our country and for our people.”

Unlike many other U.S. cities, Indianapolis was not set on fire that night. The crowd listened to him because they knew it was not just more words, that Bobby would continue King’s crusade.

He had 68 more days in which to do so.

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