• Walking through final minutes of Dr. King's life

    By: Mearl Purvis


    MEMPHIS, Tenn. - Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was slain near the door of his motel room 306 nearly 50 years ago. 

    Many still think he knew his time was at a close, but FOX13 spoke with one of his aids at that time, a witness on the balcony of the Lorraine Motel who casts doubt on that theory. 

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    Rev. Jesse Jackson, now a National Civil Rights leader himself, recently allowed us to join him at the National Civil Rights Museum when he went back to the place where history was forever changed in Memphis.

    They were already an hour late for dinner at the home of Memphis pastor, the Rev. Samuel Billy Kyles.

    Rev. Kyles, attorney Andrew Young, activist James Bevel and Rev. Jesse Jackson would become known as the four witnesses to Dr. King's assassination on the balcony of the Lorraine Motel.

    Nearly 50 years later, FOX13’s Mearl Purvis and Rev. Jackson huddled on a cloudy, dreary day at the hotel, a day that matched his feelings about remembering and my feelings about hearing it.

    “Pop! Pop! He reached his head up pow! And it knocked him against the wall and his foot hit the wall,” Jackson said describing the moment Dr. MLK got shot. “Yea, he was laying there. Mr. Withers came by, and I remember someone say 'Get low get low.'”

    Rev. Jackson then walked us through the next stage of events. 

    “We thought the guy could have sprayed the bullets, you know. I ran towards those steps right there and coming in this direction we were pointing, because police were coming with their guns out. They knew we were going to dinner,” Jackson described. 

    “Whew, it all happened so fast, you know, it all happened so fast. Every time I talk about it, it takes the scalp off the wound again," Jackson said describing the moments after Dr. MLK got shot.

    Rev. Jackson said the next thing he did was call Mrs. King. Jackson told her to get here as soon as possible. 

    FOX13’s Mearl Purvis then asked Rev. Jackson, “Do you think he knew in the last weeks that his time was around the corner?”

    Jackson’s response might surprise you. “You never quite know because he had faced threats of death over a period of time,” Jackson said. “He said a coward dies 1,000 deaths. A man of courage only dies one time. He died with his shoes on with no pain. It happened so quickly,” Jackson said. 

    Finally, Mearl asked Rev. Jackson how does he feel standing in the same place Dr. King was shot 50 years ago.

    “I feel sad. It’s painful. It conjures up more than I want to remember, and that’s why I don’t come here often,” Jackson said. “I see myself standing there having a casual conversation, and then ‘pow’ it was over.”

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