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Tuesday, April 04, 2006

Anybody Here Seen My Old Friend Martin?

Good things happen on April 4th, every year I’m sure. On this date in 1974, for example, Hank Aaron homered off Reds pitcher Jack Billingham to tie Babe Ruth’s record. The game temporarily stopped for a brief ceremony, whereupon the Reds asked Hammering Hank to say a few words to mark the historic event. Among other things, Aaron paid tribute to Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, pointing out that King had died on that very same day in 1968. The following day, sportswriters for the Cincinnati Enquirer characterized Aaron’s brief homage to King as inappropriate

April 4th 1968 wasn’t a good day for me personally. I spent the better part of it in the emergency room of Children’s Hospital in Columbus, OH, where I received medical attention for a broken thumb and collarbone, injuries I got from riding recklessly on my bicycle.

Dad and I returned home from the hospital and found my mother sitting cross-legged on the sofa in front of the TV. Her face was twisted in searing fury, and I assumed that my mishap earlier that day was the reason for it. But of course, her anger that day had nothing to do with me. She had been watching the news coverage of King’s assassination ever since the story broke some five hours earlier.

All three networks broadcast King’s funeral live a few days later. The cameras frequently cut to the faces of some of those gathered. Many of the faces I didn’t recognize, but I assumed they were VIPs for there were other illustrious persons there, among them Harry Belafonte, Robert Kennedy and (surprisingly) Richard Nixon.

A month later, the press reported that a man named James Ray alone murdered the Reverend on his own initiative. Many now cite this supposition as the official explanation of King’s death. Most people do not realize, however, that there were two official explanations of the King assassination. The 1976-1977 Senate Select Committee on Assassinations found a probable conspiracy involving a racist cabal from St. Louis, a spurious explanation that still fingered Ray as the triggerman:

Ray did not live long enough to see the case against him unravel. Actually, it still hasn’t unraveled, at least to the degree necessary to force the official version to change once again. Nevertheless, a few of its loose threads are getting longer.

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