As we continue our coverage of the 50th Anniversary of the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. in downtown Memphis, Local 24’s Katina Rankin spoke exclusively, one-on-one with civil rights leader Reverend Jesse Jackson.
Jackson was at the Lorraine Motel the evening James Earl Ray shot and killed Dr. King. Listen to Reverend Jackson relive April 4, 1968.
“Every time I discuss it, the wound is fresh all over again,” said Rev. Jackson.
“I know it’s difficult. It never gets easy but take me back to April 4th, 1968,” asked Katina.
“We were getting ready to go to Rev. Billy Kyles’ home for dinner, and I was coming across the courtyard. And, Dr. King said, ‘Jesse, you’re an hour late.’ He was really an hour late. (laughs) He said that ah, ‘You don’t even have on a shirt and tie’. I said, ‘Doc, the only prerequisite of a dinner is an appetite not a suit and tie.’ We laughed,” said Jackson. “He looked at my friend and said, ‘Ben, be sure to play my favorite song tonight on the saxophone, ‘Precious Lord’. And Ben said, ‘I will’. Then he raised up and POW, hit him right here and severed his tie and went down and blew his heart out. WHEW! He died upon impact really. He didn’t suffer – dead on impact. Then I heard somebody say, ‘Get low, get low’, and I ran towards the step.”
The rest, Rev. Jackson says, really is history. When asked what would Dr. King say to him today, this was his reply.
“Did you feed the hungry? Did you care for the sick? Did you visit the imprisoned? We tried to do that. Did you choose peace over war? We’ve done that. Did you try to set the captive free? We’ve done that. Did you try to choose reconciliation over retaliation? We’ve done that. We’ve tried to play out his agenda. And it’s alive today. The dream is real,” said Rev. Jackson.
Rev. Jackson shared with Katina what happened after he ran towards the steps at the Lorraine Motel. Be sure to tune in to our special coverage of MLK50 the evening of April 3rd. Find out what happened next, from the telephone call Rev. Jackson made to King’s widow, to Dr. King’s blood smeared over the shirt Jackson wore that night. That April 3rd special begins at 7:00 p.m.