First, Walter Cronkite‘s televised announcement of Dr. King’s assassination.
Also on the night of April 4, 1968, presidential candidate Robert Kennedy received the news that Martin Luther King Jr. had been assassinated. Kennedy was about to speak in Indianapolis and some in his campaign wondered if they should go ahead with the rally. He then spoke without any notes, sharing his thoughts and feelings about the tragedy.
Kennedy’s heartfelt speech came only hours after King’s last address. The night before, the civil rights leader had reluctantly taken to the dais at the Mason Temple in Memphis. The weather that evening had been miserable—thunderstorms and tornado warnings. As a result, King arrived late and was just going to say a few words and then tell everyone to please go home.
Finally, visibly tired and with no notes in hand, King stumbled at first. The shutters hitting against the temple walls sounded like gun shots to him. So much so that Dr. King’s friend, the Rev. Billy Kyles, found a custodian to stop the noise. Only then, at the crowd’s urging, did the words begin to come together for what proved to be his last speech.
To read all of Wendel’s article and watch precious videos of these historic moments, please click here.