New saxophone exhibit at NCRM honors last person to speak with MLK

MEMPHIS, TN (WMC) - The National Civil Rights Museum unveiled a critical piece of Memphis history from the day the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. took his last breath.

Vivian Branch's late husband, saxophonist Ben Branch, was the last person to speak to Dr. King from the balcony of the Lorraine Motel before an assassin's bullet took King's life.

"And he says, 'Ben, I would like to request a song tonight,'" Vivian said.

That song was "Precious Lord."

Visitors to the National Civil Rights Museum learned Branch's story before his wife witnessed the unveiling of his new saxophone exhibit she donated to the museum.

"It is my honor on behalf of the museum to announce this new addition to our permanent exhibition, The Ben Branch case," Dr. Noelle Trent, NCRM director of interpretation, collections, and education, said.

The exhibit brought tears to Vivian's eyes.

"I'm just blessed and I'm honored. I'm honored that it's here. It's touching. It's really moving to hear him play," she said, fighting back tears.

Vivian wanted to know her husband's saxophone would be in a safe place.

"It was also very important for her for visitors to hear his music, so what we've done with this case is put the saxophone on display and people can hear his version of Precious Lord," Trent said.

And now, her husband's music will be heard by people all over the world.

"I always wanted it to be here because this was Ben's home. It happened here in his hometown," Vivian said.

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