On This Day: April 4th

On the 4th of April in 1968 the prominent leader of the Civil Rights Movement and Nobel Peace Prize winner was murdered. He was fatally shot whilst on the balcony of room 306 at the Lorraine Motel in Memphis, he was struck in the right cheek by a .30-06 bullet fired from a Remington Model 760. King fell back onto the balcony unconscious, King was rushed to hospital but never regained consciousness, he was pronounced dead at 7:05pm.

The tragic event led to a range of reactions from different sectors of society. Within King’s own movement the assassination caused a divide, some groups broke off and left behind the peaceful non-violent strategies employed by King in favour of more militant tactics, the majority did however stay loyal to King’s teachings. President Lyndon B. Johnson called King’s wife Coretta Scott King and declared a day of mourning for April 7th. New York senator and presidential candidate Robert F. Kennedy also gave a speech in a predominantly black part of Indianapolis, he announced the death of King which large amounts of those attending were unaware of and also talked for the first time publicly about his brothers assassination. He called for unity between black people and white people, he was credited with preventing riots in Indianapolis after the assassination. Across the rest of America riots and demonstrations occurred, they erupted in over 100 cities nationwide.

After the assassination investigations began into finding the culprit, fingerprints were found where the gunfire had come from aswell as on a rifle purported as the murder weapon. Those fingerprints belonged to convict James Earl Ray, he was caught two months later in London and extradited back to the United States and charged with the murder. Ray pleaded guilty and was sentenced to 99 years in prison, he died aged 70 in 1998. There were conspiracies however, notably that Loyd Jowers aswell as involvement from different governmental agencies. In a civil case Loyd Jowers and a number of governmental agencies were found guilty of the crime, this was despite a number of inaccuracies and the ignoring of contradictory evidence.

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