It Seems Like Yesterday

The world mourned the tragic death of the Civil Rights Leader who had won the Nobel Peace Prize for advocating nonviolence and peaceful resistance to segregation and the inequality of man.

Four days after the April 4, 1968, assassination of her husband at the Lorraine Motel in Memphis, Tennessee, Coretta Scott King led a peaceful march through downtown Memphis to honor the memory of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.  

Accompanied by their three older children, Yolanda, 12; MLK III, 10; and Dexter, 7—and to her left the Rev. Ralph Abernathy (in beige raincoat), and next to Yolanda the actor/singer/activist Harry Belafonte who, today at 93, is still stoic and stately—Mrs. King was determined to lead the march for the striking workers that her husband had originally come to Memphis to support. 

The movie theatre marquee heralded Bonnie and Clyde, a film in which Warren Beatty and Faye Dunaway portrayed a real-life pistol-packing duo who robbed banks—such irony in contrast to Mrs. King’s stately and somber march for her husband.

On assignment nearby when the news broke of the assassination, I immediately flew to Memphis and arrived at the Lorraine Motel about three hours after Dr. King had been shot. Naturally I went straight to his room on the second floor of the motel where one of his followers pointed across the parking lot to the second-floor window in a row of buildings to show me where the bullet had come from.

I knocked on the door and Hosea Williams, a member of MLK’s inner circle, opened the door. In his hand was a glass jar half-full of something red. Williams told me it was Dr. King’s blood that he had mopped up with towels and squeezed into the glass jar.

The room was just as MLK had left it, unmade bed, briefcase open, milk cartons on the floor… I photographed everything I saw because as a photojournalist I knew it was for history. I had marched with King during the James Meredith March for Freedom, and was teargassed with him in Canton, Mississippi.

Afterward I flew to Atlanta with the writer Ian Brodie for the funeral, the end of an era… It somehow seems just like yesterday.