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Death In Memphis

May 2024
1min read

The closest I ever felt to the pulse of history was on the morning after Dr. King was shot. I had flown to Memphis the night before and went from the motel where he was shot to the police station, where I found out which funeral home was preparing his body. When I arrived there after midnight, there were only two other journalists in the home’s reception area (both from out of town, a writer and a photographer for Life ). No local people joined us as we waited for dawn, listening to the morticians on the other side of a thin partition complaining of the way they would have to build a jaw replacement of plaster for the lower part of Dr. King’s face that had been blown away. On the black radio station that the morticians were playing, King’s live voice was audible, giving speech after speech. When the body was brought out, we three had a close look at the face before the manager of the home pinned a gauze over the top of the coffin. It was the first time I had seen Dr. King except in pictures. I thought he was dead, but I was wrong.

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