He was loved by some, yet hated by others, and he worked tirelessly to assure that people could enjoy the freedom of equality. Martin Luther King Jr.'s death is more than just a date on the calendar. It represents a point in American history when millions recognized that things had to change, capping over a decade of work and struggle by King.
His life was not without its difficulty; he was a unifying figure for some and a polarizing figure for others. His life was threatened numerous times. His home was bombed, he was arrested many times, and he was assaulted numerous times, but when did Martin Luther King Jr. die?
In April 1968, Dr. King was in Tennessee to lend his support to the sanitation workers who were striking in Memphis. King was assassinated while he stood on the balcony of room 306 at the Lorraine Motel on April 4, 1968, felled by one bullet.
King was rushed to Saint Joseph Hospital, but he could not be saved and passed away shortly after his arrival. His was 39 years old at the time of his death.
James Earl Ray, a racist, most likely disliked the changes that Dr. King was involved in disliked the advancements which were being granted towards African Americans. He may have thought that if he killed one of the leaders of the movement, he could stop the change.
Ray was the sniper who most believe shot King in the neck that spring day in 1968. It is said that Ray dropped the Remington 760 Gamesmater rifle and a small personal radio which had his prison ID engraved upon it, making it possible for authorities to identify Ray as the assassin.
At first, Ray confessed to shooting Dr. King on March 10, 1969. However, three days later, he attempted to recant this confession. In his first trial, he pleaded guilty. He was sentenced for ninety-nine years in prison. However, Ray stated that he took the guilty plea on the advice of his lawyer. In fact, he stated, he was not guilty.
He attempted to blame the crime on a different man that he met in Montreal and said that this man was deeply involved in the crime. He also tried to link his brother to the assassination.
Ray confessed to killing Dr. King and was convicted and sentenced to ninety-nine years in prison for the crime. He later recanted the confession and spent the remainder of his years in prison trying to withdraw his original plea and receive a new trial. He died in prison.
James Earl Ray was born on March 10, 1928. He grew up in Alton, Illinois. His family was poor, and thus his childhood was one of poverty. When he was fifteen, he left school and subsequently joined the United States Army. Ray had served in Germany in the Army during World War II.
After serving in the military, Ray began a life of crime, serving time in prison for armed robbery and mail fraud.
In 1949, he was convicted of burglary in California. Although it is unknown if this was his first crime, it was the first crime of which he was convicted. In 1952, he then served two years in prison. This time in prison was for the armed robbery of a taxi driver in Illinois.
In 1959, he was sentenced to twenty years in a federal prison for multiple and repeated offenses. However, in 1967, he was able to escape from prison. He accomplished this by hiding inside a truck that was carrying bread from the bakery in the prison. He shot Dr. King less than a year later.
There are many people that believe that the death of Dr. King was a very well conducted conspiracy with James Earl Ray being the scapegoat who took the fall.
There are many people that believe that Ray was used by the government to end the life of Martin Luther King, Jr. as there were many people at the time that did not approve of King’s beliefs and the uprising that he was causing in relation to struggling for civil rights for all people.
Those that believe in the conspiracy theory claim that James Earl Ray, an escaped convict, did not have the resources to stalk and kill a very well protected prominent civil rights leader without assistance from a more established outside source.
Dexter King, one of Dr. King’s sons, believed that there was government involvement in the death of Dr. King and he visited James Earl Ray while he was in prison to support the fact that he didn’t believe that Ray killed his father.
There have been a number of developments that make the assassination remain a mystery.
Government officials investigated Lloyd Jowers claims but were not able to determine that there was any truth to his claims. Thus, the mystery around Martin Luther King’s killer continues.
Though his days on the earth were done on that spring day, his work continued and lives on even now. Around the nation and around the world, people mourned his loss. His influence and impact on the equal treatment of people lasts until this day.
Even after his life was over, he changed the world. He was the focal point of the movement in his lifetime, and Martin Luther King Jr. remains an icon of the movement these many decades after his death.
One man’s dream became the shared dream of a people seeking unity, building that unity one day and one person at a time. The loss of his life was an appalling moment in American history, but the truth of his ideals of equal treatment and nonviolent protest continue to shape life in the United States and abroad. Not even death can destroy the goodness and rightness of Dr. King’s dream.
King was already a member of the NAACP’s (National Association for the Advancement of Colored People) executive committee. In 1955, he participated in the nonviolent bus boycott, which ultimately led to desegregation of buses.
Two years later, King was elected president of the new Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC), which was formed to guide and coordinate civil rights activities. With this group, King combined the principles of Christianity and the nonviolence techniques used by Gandhi.
In 11 years with the SCLC, King traveled more than six million miles to give over 25,000 speeches. Somehow, with that schedule, he found time to author five books and many articles for newspapers and magazines. His presence and leadership were so influential that thousands of people participated in the nonviolent protests he led. One of the most famous was the gathering of one-quarter million people in Washington, D.C., where King delivered his now famous “I Have A Dream” speech. King was once named Time magazine’s “Man of the Year,” and even earned a Nobel Peace Prize.
For a time perspective of the details of Martin Luther King Jr's life, check out the Martin Luther King Jr. Timeline on YourDictionary.
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