Walking Through The Storm Towards The Light: The Day Before Martin Luther King Jr. Was Murdered
April 3, 2018
Fifty years ago to the date, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was planning to get a good night’s sleep on what would be his last night on earth. By mid morning of April 4, 1968 a bullet from James Earl Ray would render permanent rest for the civil rights icon, but on the evening of April 3, 1968, King just wanted to settle in from what had been an exhaustive week in Memphis. He had been called to join with the sanitation workers of Memphis who were fighting for higher wages. His trip to Memphis aligned with what was at the time his principle fight for equality: the formation of The Poor People’s Campaign. King made the journey to Memphis alone, initially. His team which consisted of Andrew Young, Jesse Jackson and Ralph Abernathy were hesitant in joining him and generally concerned about the social climate in Memphis. After traveling from city to city at a time when King publicly denounced America’s involvement in the Vietnam war, the stakes were higher than ever for these leaders of nonviolent civil disobedience. Before King left his Atlanta residence to catch his flight to Memphis, his four children attempted to barricade him, pleading for him to stay. He told them he would be back in a few days and when the young King children finally loosened their grip to allow their father to get in the car to the airport, it would be the last time they would see him alive. The journey to Memphis seemed to have carried a different degree of eeriness for King’s loved ones. For years he had regularly walked in the valley of the shadow of death, but continuously forged on for the sake of the people and the movement. His last sacrifice of self came on the night of April 3rd.
It was a stormy night in Memphis on April 3, 1968. Martin Luther King Jr. was in his pajamas in the Lorraine Motel when he got the call from his team to come out and greet the massive crowd at the Church of God In Christ. The plan was for the team to address the audience sans an appearance by King, but the people wanted to hear a word from one of the world’s most admired men at a time when his approval rating as a civil leader was tanking. King begrudgingly got out of his pajamas and into a suit to go venture into the night’s downpour. What was supposed to be a few remarks turned into a fiery speech that had felt more premonition than sermon. He told the packed crowd that his eyes had seen the glory of the coming of the Lord and that he was not in fear of death. They listened and roared with conviction not knowing that they would be the last people he would ever address. On that fateful night everyone’s destiny led them to that place. Everyone was exactly where they were supposed to be. May we all be so fortunate to always end up where time & place calls us.