Martin Luther King's Son Recalls April 4, 1968

Forty years ago, the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. was killed by an assassin's bullet. The famed civil rights leader died in Memphis, where he was due to march on behalf of striking sanitation workers. King's involvement in the demonstrations was to add to the Atlanta-based preacher's robust campaign against racial injustice and poverty in America.

His son, Martin Luther King III, was only 10 years old when his family was forever changed by a tragedy that would echo around the world. He remembers learning his father had been harmed.

"My siblings and I were watching the evening news and we saw it flashed across the screen that our father had been shot ... we just knew that something terrible had happened."

He recalls that his mother, the late Coretta Scott King, rushed to be by his side. Before reaching her critically wounded husband, he would die from his wounds.

The grieving wife and mother, who would later carry her husband's torch in the fight for equality, attempted to explain the news to her children.

"She shared that our father had gone home to live with God," King recalls. "He would not be able to talk to us, he would not be able to embrace us, but he would appear as if he was sleeping."

The days ahead would be a challenge for the children, as they tried to make sense of what happened.

"When you've been raised in a home of love, and for your loved one to be taken away from you through violence, a lot of emotions go through your mind," says King, who calls the assassination the most "tragic and traumatic" time of their lives.

In an interview with NPR's Cheryl Corley, the eldest son of Martin and Coretta Scott King talks about how his family dealt with the assassination. King also weighs in on the 2008 presidential election, and why he is pushing for the creation of a cabinet position aimed at reducing poverty in America.

Comments

 

Please keep your community civil. All comments must follow the NPR.org Community rules and terms of use, and will be moderated prior to posting. NPR reserves the right to use the comments we receive, in whole or in part, and to use the commenter's name and location, in any medium. See also the Terms of Use, Privacy Policy and Community FAQ.

Support comes from: