We asked our readers to share their memories and feelings about the murder of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., which happened 50 years ago today.
We asked our readers to share their memories and feelings about the murder of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., 50 years ago Wednesday.
(The responses have been edited for length.)
Sobering and scary: I was in my bedroom … when I heard the announcement on the radio. It was a sobering and scary moment when I questioned how another public leader could be shot and killed so easily. It was very sad and unsettling to join in the mourning as it played out across the nation.
— Marilyn Roy, Seattle
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1968 was a terrible year: The tragedy of Vietnam War raged on. War protest grew larger and more violent. And then Martin Luther King’s senseless killing that led to more riots and fires in many major cities. Then in only a couple of months Bobby Kennedy was shot and killed.
I remember thinking, “My God, the country is coming apart.” All this while I was in Texas going to combat school as I was on my way to Vietnam.
Now here we are 50 years later, with even more political division. Two questionable wars plus that go on and on. And more to the point, racial tensions are like a wound that we cannot heal. Not much has changed.
— Larry Hardman
Shocked and grief-stricken: I lived with my husband and 4-year-old daughter just west of Winnipeg, Manitoba, when Dr. Martin Luther King was murdered. I remember being shocked and grief-stricken watching those who had been with him on that balcony pointing in the direction of the shots, which killed him, and being deeply saddened that the country so greatly admired around the world could assassinate such amazing figures as their president, civil-rights workers and peace activists. God bless their efforts and all who carry on their work.
— Judy Gibson, age 78, St. John’s, Newfoundland, Canada
I was so distraught: I am a black female, a former math teacher and counselor in the Seattle Public Schools. The student population of Wilson Junior High School was approximately 1,500, with 5 percent or less being black.
I was teaching algebra, and all of my students were white females. When it was announced on the intercom that Dr. King had been murdered, I was so distraught that my face must have shown some emotion, tears or pain. However, I heard no discussion from these wonderful young ladies, they rose, silently, formed a circle around me, and began to sing, “No Man Is An Island.”
I carried these thoughts with me for the remaining of the 48 years that I spent in the Seattle Public Schools.
— Dolores Booker
I still worry: My until-then all white family adopted my black baby brother in 1967, and he quickly became the love of my 5-year-old life. When he was 14 months old, I was sitting with our mother listening to radio news coverage of the reaction to the murder of Dr. King, a man I’d never heard of. Across my brother’s playpen was a beaded toy that spun and clacked when he kicked it, which he loved to do. As mom tried without success to help me understand what had happened, I watched my brother: kick, clackity-clack, giggle. Kick, clackity-clack, giggle. I can still feel the rising dread as it dawned on me that someone might want to hurt my brother because of his skin. Mom wanted to reassure me, but couldn’t. I began to become an activist that day, listening to racist words, righteous anger, and kick, clackity-clack, giggle. 50 years later I still worry.
— Brigid Hagan
Did not go in vain: One of the proudest memories of my life happened in April 1968. I was a college student in Memphis, and Dr. King was coming to support the sanitation-workers strike. I attended the “Mountaintop” speech and was lucky enough to march with him in Memphis.
We were shocked to learn of his assassination.
However, Martin’s martyrdom did not go in vain, and in the following years, the outrage brought about remarkable change. Martin knew he would eventually suffer a horrible ending, but somehow it inspired him to be even stronger, never letting fear stop him. He would be honored to know that his death brought so much change for civil rights.
— Michael Karbowski
So sad in her voice: I am a white senior citizen now. Before the assassination of Dr. King, I had volunteered for a Seattle Urban League program to find landlords who would rent or sell homes to the minority black and Jewish communities.
I never had much luck finding people willing to cooperate; most were afraid of their neighbors’ reactions, and other people were rude to me, calling me names.
The day after Dr. King was shot, I called the Seattle Urban League for further instructions and had a female answer who had no info for me and actually was so sad in her voice, she could hardly relate to me, which I understood.
— Rita Range