Where Were You When Martin Luther King, Jr. Was Killed?

The day Martin Luther King was assassinated I came home from a baseball game I’d been playing to find my mom absolutely distraught. Through her almost violent crying she told me that her hero Martin had been murdered. I knew who King was, because at that time my mom was a college student at San Jose State University, and was very actively involved in the political and social turmoil of 1968. I was ten years old.

I of course tried to comfort my mom, but she was beyond it. She secluded herself in her bedroom, and was so upset it seemed like she might never stop shaking. She went into a very deep funk that rendered her pretty fully incapable for at least three days. It was awful, watching her suffer so.

Motivated by my mom’s love of Dr. King, I got busy learning all I could about him, and the movement which he did so much to champion. King has remained an inspiration to me from that period of my life onward. His writings are invariably sublime testaments to the power of the human mind and soul. In so many way he was, almost above all, an artist. No one writes better.

On this sad day, I’d appreciate you sharing, if you’re old enough to remember, where you were and/or what you were doing when you heard that Dr. King been killed, and what that did or didn’t mean to you. If you’re not old enough to have been personally affected by that tragedy, and would like to share any of your thoughts on the immortal civil rights leader, I’d also be very grateful to hear them. Thanks. God bless.

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About John Shore

John Shore (who, fwiw, is straight) is the author of UNFAIR: Christians and the LGBT Question, and three other great books. He is co-founder of The NALT Christians Project and founder of Unfundamentalist Christians (on Facebook here). His blog is here. His website is JohnShore.com. John is a pastor ordained by The Progressive Christian Alliance. You're invited to like John's Facebook page. And don't forget to sign up for his mucho awesome monthly newsletter.

  • Jeannie Maxwell

    I have no memory of the event. I was still too young. Sadly, I knew very little about Martin Luther King until a few years ago when his birthday became a holiday. That is what spurred me to read about him.

    He or his teachings were never brought up in my school and the only thing my parents told me about him was that he was a minister who had multiple affairs and that he seemed to like to stir people up. In other words, to them he was easily dismissed.

    This is incredible to me because my parents (and for that matter my community) were in no way overtly racist. My parents would have thought it was terrible for black people to be forced to sit in the back of the bus if they knew that was happening somewhere. But, they didn't, so they couldn't understand the outcry.

    I am glad we have come a long way and can recognize these early civil right leaders for the brave national treasures they were.

  • http://www.epcomm.com/ddawson Dennis Dawson

    I was 9 years old. 1968 was such a pivotal year. Martin Luther King, Bobby Kennedy.

    What changed in my life was that my family, being from Texas, had always had a sort of casual racism. "Treat black people like they were normal people." "You be nice to Mr. Taggert: he's as good as you or me."

    When Martin Luther King was assassinated, the whole country had to come to terms with the fact that all it takes for evil to win is for good people to do nothing.

    I remember the principal of my elementary school teaching our class a lesson on MLK's "I Have a Dream" speech in 1967. He had already made an impact while he was alive. Compare it to the tragic death of John Lennon, whose words and work became more significant after he was killed. It's not just that we lost MLK in 1968, the tragedy is that he had so much more to teach us.

    After that time, my parents changed their tune, and I think they reflected the mood of the entire country. After that, you couldn't sit on the fence with your beliefs about racism, about the war in Viet Nam, about the rising voice of the baby boomers.

    What makes me sad is when I listen to some of the songs that were popular at the time. "Get Together," "He Ain't Heavy, He's My Brother," "Black and White." I think we learned a lesson, but it didn't stick the way it should have. It's good to think back on those times, and remember to teach our children through all of our actions that "United We Stand, Divided We Fall."

  • http://ricbooth.wordpress.com ric booth

    I was in the white middle class where it was treated as just another news item. Nothing more. I remember anger and disgust over the rioting. That's all.

  • Liz Edmundson

    I was living here in Memphis and I was 12 years old. It was a hard time for me and Memphis has been changed for good and bad – forever.

  • Larry Nevenhoven

    Actually, I was on my way to Florida, via Nashville, TN. Lots of National Guard checked us out.

  • onemansbeliefs

    As a child, I was too young to remember…

    As a young adult, I was too ignorant to care…

    As an adult Christian, I am more interested in the life Christ lived…

    However, MLK day will always be remembered in my home.

    It was that day, in 1992, I spoke the Mrs. for the very first time.

  • Erp

    Too young but I'm enjoying perusing some of his speeches and sermons.

  • Richard Lubbers

    I was nine years old when John F Kennedy was shot, and I remember a deep sadness permeating our family and our nation. I couldn't believe that that kind of violence could really happen. Less than five years later, Marting Luther King and Bobby Kennedy were shot and killed, and I again felt the deep sadness that such good men were taken out by such bad men.

    We are all a composite of good and bad. We are all capable of the best a human can do, and the worst. All three men had their strengths and their weeknesses, but they championed a better way and were killed for it. It is important, I think, to remember that God Himself became one of us, knowing that he would be rejected and murdered for being who He is. Thankfully, He is the forstborn of many, and all things are being gathered into Him. It was He who reminded us that we are all adulterers and murderers, because it is our heart that needs healing. He offers it; whoever will can receive it.

    Good people are taken out every day. These three men were noteworthy because of their cause and their high station in our country. We honor them for the work they acheived, and in so doing, we honor all who have given of themselves and paid a high price for it.

    Maranatha.

  • mike

    I was 18 and working at a retail store 2 blocks away from the Lorraine Motel.. I had asked one of my fellow workers to go get us something to eat and he came back saying that Main st. was covered up with police in riot gear and shotguns. My father who worked there came to the warehouse and said lock up we were closing Martin Luther King had been shot.. It took us about an hour and half to get home thru roadblocks and the rioting was just starting .. that usually took us about 20 minutes to get home. I know I was scared to death that Memphis would be burned down that night.. and it almost was.. a day of course that I will never forget.

  • Sarah Q. Malone

    I do not remember hearing about the MLK assassination until the next morning, before I was to go to school. I had just turned 13 a week or so before, and I was strongly into questioning the existence of any benevolent, omniscient or omnipotent Creator. My predominant feelings when I heard the news were fear, horror, disgust, and confirmation of the nihilism that was creeping into my attitude.

    I went to an integrated junior high school in Stamford CT, where in the day after the assassination the black students threatened riot or boycott, and a white student was reportedly knifed in a girls' room by a black student. Nevertheless as a child I had grown up looking up to black young adults whom I had seen a good deal of (friends/family members of a highly esteemed housekeeper). And I understood black students' rage and despair only too well, though I could not have verbalized it at that time.

    King's and Kennedy's assassinations turned me into a devout atheist in my teens, though I remained a pacifist equally disgusted by war. Only at the age of 20 did I experience the transcendent love of God, and later the depth of Christ, that turned me into a devout Christian. In the years since then I have become a great admirer of King's deep and far-reaching critique of American society–that we still have an immense amount to learn from. And I see Martin as having gone through a true Gethsemane experience in the midst of the Montgomery bus boycott, that makes him a true exemplar of the resurrected Christ.

    Blessings,

    Sarah Malone

  • kathy nelson

    I will never forget that day. It was my 18th birthday. (April 4, 1950)

    In the 1960's , that I remember it was J. Kennedy, R. Kennedy than tragically Martin L. King Jr.

    It was something I will never forget.

    Kathy from Seattle

  • http://Mikeandkaren.blogspot.com Michael in Russia

    I was 15 years old, living in a tiny little village in Indiana. I remember walking down to my friend’s house. He came out on the porch and gleefully said “They finally got that nigger”. He himself later became a pacifist, while in the U.S. Army and from there went into the ministry. He regrets that statement today and MLK is one of his heroes. I also remember the RFK assassination. I was actually up late listening to the primary returns from CA on an old B&W TV with no picture. I heard the killing and woke up my family. We turned on the working TV and watched the rest of the night.

    • http://www.johnshore.wordpress.com John Shore

      Mike: Nice anecdote/comment. Thanks for it. Really rich.

  • http://voicedude.official.fm/ Joel-Steven

    OK, I’ll weigh in…I was nine, but aware enough of the ‘real world’ (even as a kid in the 60s) to have written a poem called “All The People” about MLK, RFK, Gus Grissom, & other famous grown-ups taken before their time. My way of dealing, I guess….