In late March, 1968, Dr. King went to Memphis, Tennessee
in support of the black garbage workers of AFSCME Local
1733, who had been on strike since March 12 for higher
wages and better treatment: for example, African American
workers, paid $1.70 per hour, were not paid when sent
home because of inclement weather (unlike white workers).
On April 3, Dr. King returned to Memphis and addressed
a rally, delivering his "I've been to the Mountaintop"
King was assassinated at 6:01 p.m. April 4, 1968, on
the balcony of the Lorraine Motel in Memphis, Tennessee.
Friends inside the motel room heard the shots and ran
to the balcony to find King shot in the throat. He was
pronounced dead at St. Joseph's Hospital at 7:05 p.m.
The assassination led to a nationwide wave of riots in
more than 60 cities. Five days later, President Lyndon
B. Johnson declared a national day of mourning for the
lost civil rights leader. A crowd of 300,000 attended
his funeral that same day. Vice-President Hubert Humphrey
attended on behalf of Lyndon B. Johnson, who was meeting
with several advisors and cabinet officers on the Vietnam
War in Camp David. Also, there were fears he might be
hit with protests and abuses over the war. The city quickly
settled the strike, on favorable terms, after the assassination.
Two months after King's death, escaped convict James
Earl Ray was captured at London Heathrow Airport while
trying to leave the United Kingdom on a false Canadian
passport in the name of Ramon George Sneyd. Ray was quickly
extradited to Tennessee and charged with King's murder,
confessing to the assassination on March 10, 1969 (though
he recanted this confession three days later). Later,
Ray would be sentenced to a 99-year prison term.
On the advice of his attorney Percy Foreman, Ray took
a guilty plea to avoid a trial conviction and thus the
possibility of receiving the death penalty.
Ray fired Foreman as his attorney (from then on derisively
calling him "Percy Fourflusher") claiming that
a man he met in Montreal, Canada with the alias "Raoul"
was involved, as was his brother Johnny, but not himself,
further asserting that although he didn't "personally
shoot Dr. King," he may have been "partially
responsible without knowing it," hinting at a conspiracy.
He spent the remainder of his life attempting (unsuccessfully)
to withdraw his guilty plea and secure the trial he never
On June 10, 1977, shortly after Ray had testified to
the House Select Committee on Assassinations that he did
not shoot King, he and six other convicts escaped from
Brushy Mountain State Penitentiary in Petros, Tennessee.
They were recaptured on June 13 and returned to prison.
More years were then added to his sentence for attempting
to escape from the penitentiary.