Kennedy King Memorial Institute Commemorates 50th Anniversary of MLK’s Death

Posted on: April 4, 2018, by :

By Jeff Turner

On April 4th, 1968, precisely fifty years ago, Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated outside of his hotel room in Memphis, Tennessee by James Earl Ray. Riots erupted in major cities all over the country as a result. However, in Indianapolis, there were no riots that night. Many attribute this to a speech given that night by Robert Kennedy, who was campaigning in Indianapolis ahead of the upcoming primary election. Instead, Kennedy used the occasion to calm a city whose African-American populace was in grieving.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Fifty years later, at the site of that epic speech, a commemoration ceremony was held. Roughly two hundred people were in attendance, including Governor Eric Holcomb, Mayor Joe Hogsett, Congresswoman Susan Brooks of Indiana’s 5th District, Andre Carson of Indiana’s 7th District, and Indiana Senators Todd Young and Joe Donnelly — politicians putting aside partisan affiliations to commemorate an historic moment in the city’s history.

Chris French, an IUPUI student, was one of those watching the event. “I’m here with my diversity class, diversity issues course,” French said. “And growing up in Indianapolis I just thought I’d come and pay my respects to Martin Luther King Jr.” Ramla Zanalden, another IUPUI student with French, said, “I find it fascinating, after so many years, fifty years, his legacy, all these people of different backgrounds coming together.

People of all ages and backgrounds were in attendance.

“I was here fifty years ago,” said Tom Wallace, head of the Morgan County Democratic Party. “It was cold, not like today.”

Mayor Hogsett and Governor Holcomb gave remarks sharing their thoughts about the significant date. “Imagine, had it not happened, what would the world be like?” Holcomb said.

Remarks were aired from Congressman John Lewis, who was unable to attend. He was campaigning for Robert Kennedy in Indiana at the time, and was a close personal friend of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. He cited how King “appealed to the best in each of us,” imploring those watching to “follow the teachings of Martin Luther King Jr.” He added “I truly believe there was no violence in Indianapolis that night because of the words Robert Kennedy spoke.”

Also on stage appeared a panel, consisting of Young, Donnelly, Brooks, and Carson, where they discussed a landmark piece of legislation they sponsored in the House and Senate. The bill makes Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Park a national commemorative site, passing unanimously in both Houses of Congress, signed into law by the President. This bipartisan act was cited by them as proof that “we can come together as a country.” Kennedy’s speech that night in 1968 was also aired, his words resonating even fifty years later.

But the most memorable part of the commemoration event was a replaying of the last speech delivered by King, his “Mountaintop” speech, one which proved prophetic. “I’ve been to the mountaintop. I would like to live a long life. Longevity has its place, I am not concerned with that. I’ve seen the Promised Land. I may not get there with you, but I want you to know that we as a people will get to the Promised Land.”

Fifty years later, King may be dead — Kennedy himself was assassinated two months later — but his teachings do indeed live on, reflected by the diverse makeup of the crowd who had come to commemorate the day of his death, and mark an important date in the city’s history. In Indianapolis and beyond, Dr. King’s dream lives on.

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