This week in history: Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. assassinated

Posted Apr 3, 2013 by Andrew Dyer
April 4th of this year marks the 45th anniversary of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.'s death. Dr. King Jr. was a civil rights leader credited for bringing attention to injustices against African-Americans.
Martin Luther King
Martin Luther King
File photo
Just after 6 pm on this date in 1968 Dr. King was fatally shot while standing on the balcony outside his second-story room at a motel in Memphis, Tennessee. The shot struck him in the jaw, severing his spinal cord. Dr. King was 39 years old.
Dr. King's renowned "I have a dream" speech in the summer of 1963 is acclaimed for providing an impetus to ending widespread racism in the United States. One day before his death, Dr. King gave his last sermon in Memphis, stating "We've got some difficult days ahead. But it really doesn't matter with me now, because I've been to the mountaintop...And He's allowed me to go up to the mountain. And I've looked over, and I've seen the Promised Land. I may not get there with you. But I want you to know tonight that we, as a people, will get to the promised land." Many people see this speech as a sign that Dr. King predicted his own untimely demise. Dr. King was an inspiration to African-Americans across the country. In his voice they felt inspiration and hope. In his death, they felt hate and renewed oppression. As word of his death spread, riots broke out in cities across the United States.
On the evening of Dr. King's murder, a Remington rifle was found a block from the motel where he was shot. Escaped convict James Earl Ray was eventually fingered as a suspect as eyewitness reports were given and Ray's fingerprints were lifted from the weapon. Ray was arrested in early June 1968 at an airport in London. He was returned to Memphis and plead guilty to the murder of Dr. King to avoid the death penalty. He received a 99-year prison sentence. Shortly after being sentenced, Ray attempted to withdraw his guilty plea, contending that he was a fall man in a larger conspiracy. His request was denied.
Events to commemorate Dr. King's efforts to bring attention to civil rights such as peace walks, tributes, and celebrations of his life are scheduled across the United States this week. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. is a prime example of what people can do if they are determined enough to stand up for themselves and call for change.