Jesse Jackson reflects on witnessing history - WMC Action News 5 - Memphis, Tennessee

Reported by Anna Marie Hartman

Jesse Jackson reflects on witnessing history

Two leaders in the civil rights movement returned to Memphis Friday to pay tribute to their friend, Dr. Martin Luther King, Junior.

The Reverend Billy Kyles and the Reverend Jesse Jackson stood on the balcony of the Lorraine Motel, where their friend was shot and killed almost 40 years ago.  On April 4, 1968, Jackson was standing at the foot of the balcony, talking to Dr. King, when shots rang out.

"As he reached I said, 'Doc,' and it hit him," Jackson said. "He was knocked against the door, and his foot was sprawling across the banister."

Moments after King was shot, it was Jackson who called the fallen icon's wife, Coretta Scott King, to deliver the terrible news.

After King's assassination, Jackson said, the movement had to continue.  It was a distraction that helped him and many others cope with King's death.  Today, Jackson said, he remembers his friend as a visionary who did too much good to die a hated man.

"The government turned on him," Jackson said.  "The media turned on him.  Civil rights organizations turned on him."

Jackson said he still struggles with the loss of Dr. King, but in a different way now than 40 years ago.  Memories of the moment still bring him to tears.

"They didn't have to kill him," Jackson said. "He shouldn't have died at 39."

Jackson said he doesn't visit Memphis much, because it's difficult for him to relive the tragic moment...something he witnessed firsthand.

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