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PLUNK GENEALOGY -- see "Family" label on this blog and/or write Mike at mdplunk@hotmail.com

Friday, April 4, 2008

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.




On April 3, 1968 Mike and I celebrated my birthday and went downtown. On April 4, 1968 the city and the nation were stunned by the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. on the balcony of the downtown Lorraine Motel.

We were at home that afternoon when we heard the shocking news. Mike didn’t work that night. The whole city shut down. So we sat in disbelief and watched the news stream across the television screen.

Dr. King had come to Memphis to march with striking sanitation workers, and his stay ended abruptly with a single gunshot.

On April 7, a grass-roots group calling themselves “Memphis Cares" drew a crowd of 7,000 to Crump Stadium in an attempt to heal racial tension and to hear speakers eulogize Dr. King calling for unity and an end to the strike.

On April 8, approximately 19,000 people from across the nation quietly marched through downtown Memphis to the City Hall plaza to commemorate Dr. King. Mike and I and one of our friends stood in the crowd that lined Main Street. The somber walkers were led by Coretta Scott King and three of her children. The widow was flanked by the Director of Fire & Police and the Assistant Chief of Police, intent on the safety of the King family.

Also at the head of the march were Dr. Benjamin Spock, Jerry Wurf, Dr. Ralph Abernathy, the Rev. James Lawson, Harry Belafonte and labor leader Walter Reuther of the United Auto Workers.

The Memphis Commercial Appeal wrote: “Obviously fatigued and fighting off a cold, she (Mrs. King) spoke for almost 15 minutes, her voice never wavering. Mr. Belafonte held her children's hands as she spoke, and the two smaller ones took turns sitting in his lap. A breeze rustled the black lace mantilla on her head as she reiterated her husband's philosophy of nonviolence and his belief that ‘with every Good Friday, there comes Easter’."

In the years following the assassination, the National Civil Rights Museum was built adjoining the defunct Lorraine Motel. Room 306, Dr. King’s $13-a-night room, was preserved and can be viewed by museum visitors. The museum is educational and moving. Guests can track the history and milestones of the civil rights movement and step into exhibits to experience a lunch counter sit-in and Rosa Parks’ refusal to follow bus driver orders to give up her seat for a white passenger.

The museum should be on the must-see list for all visitors to Memphis. Read more about it at http://www.civilrightsmuseum.org/

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