Martin Luther King, Jr., (January 15, 1929 – April 4, 1968) was one of the main leaders of the American civil rights movement, a political activist, a Baptist minister, and was one of America's greatest orators. In 1964, King became the youngest man to be awarded the Nobel Peace Prize (for his work as a peacemaker, promoting nonviolence and equal treatment for different races). On April 4, 1968, King was assassinated in Memphis, Tennessee.
In 1977, he was posthumously awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom by Jimmy Carter. In 1986, Martin Luther King Day was established as a United States holiday. In 2004, King was posthumously awarded the Congressional Gold Medal. King often called for personal responsibility in fostering world peace. King's most influential and well-known public address is the "I Have A Dream" speech, delivered on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C. in 1963.
Martin Luther King, Jr., was born on January 15, 1929, in Atlanta, Georgia. He was the son of Reverend Martin Luther King, Sr. and Alberta Williams King between his sister, Willie Christine (September 11, 1927) and younger brother, Albert Daniel (nicknamed 'A.D.'; July 30, 1930 – July 21, 1969). According to his father, the attending physician mistakenly entered "Michael" on Martin Jr.'s birth certificate but when he was older he changed his name to what should have been. King sang with his church choir at the 1939 Atlanta premiere of the movie Gone with the Wind. He entered Morehouse College at the age of fifteen, as he skipped his ninth and twelfth high school grades without formally graduating. In 1948, he graduated from Morehouse with a Bachelor of Arts (B.A.) degree in sociology, and enrolled in Crozer Theological Seminary in Chester, Pennsylvania and graduated with a Bachelor of Divinity (B.D.) degree in 1951. In September of that year, King began doctoral studies in Systematic Theology at Boston University and received his Doctor of Philosophy (Ph. D.) on June 5, 1955.
Civil rights activism
In 1953, at the age of 24, King became pastor of the Dexter Avenue Baptist Church, in Montgomery, Alabama. On December 1, 1955, Rosa Parks was arrested for refusing to comply with the Jim Crow laws that required her to give up her seat to a white man. The Montgomery Bus Boycott, urged and planned by E. D. Nixon (head of the Montgomery NAACP chapter and a member of the Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters) and led by King, soon followed. (In March of the same year, a 15 year old school girl, Claudette Colvin, suffered the same fate but King refused to become involved, instead preferring to focus on leading his church.) The boycott lasted for 382 days, the situation becoming so tense that King's house was bombed. King was arrested during this campaign, which ended with a United States Supreme Court decision outlawing racial segregation on all public transport.
King was instrumental in the founding of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC) in 1957, a group created to harness the moral authority and organizing power of black churches to conduct non-violent protests in the service of civil rights reform. King continued to dominate the organization. King was an adherent of the philosophies of nonviolent civil disobedience used successfully in India by Mohandas "Mahatma" Gandhi, and he applied this philosophy to the protests organized by the SCLC. In 1959, he wrote The Measure of A Man, from which the piece What is Man?, an attempt to sketch the optimal political, social, and economic structure of society, is derived.
The FBI began wiretapping King in 1961, fearing that Communists were trying to infiltrate the Civil Rights Movement, but when no such evidence emerged, the bureau used the incidental details caught on tape over six years in attempts to force King out of the preeminent leadership position.
King correctly recognized that organized, nonviolent protest against the system of southern segregation known as Jim Crow laws would lead to extensive media coverage of the struggle for black equality and voting rights. Journalistic accounts and televised footage of the daily deprivation and indignities suffered by southern blacks, and of segregationist violence and harassment of civil rights workers and marchers, produced a wave of sympathetic public opinion that made the Civil Rights Movement the single most important issue in American politics in the early 1960s.
King organized and led marches for blacks' right to vote, desegregation, labor rights and other basic civil rights. Most of these rights were successfully enacted into United States law with the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965.
King and the SCLC applied the principles of nonviolent protest with great success by strategically choosing the method of protest and the places in which protests were carried out in often dramatic stand-offs with segregationist authorities. Sometimes these confrontations turned violent. King and the SCLC were instrumental in the unsuccessful Albany Movement in Albany, Georgia, in 1961 and 1962, where divisions within the black community and the canny, low-key response by local government defeated efforts; in the Birmingham protests in the summer of 1963; and in the protest in St. Augustine, Florida, in 1964. King and the SCLC joined forces with the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) in Selma, Alabama, in December 1964, where SNCC had been working on voter registration for a number of months.
King is perhaps most famous for his "I Have a Dream" speech, given in front of the Lincoln Memorial during the 1963 March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom.
The March on Washington
King, representing SCLC, was among the leaders of the so-called "Big Six" civil rights organizations who were instrumental in the organization of the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom in 1963. The other leaders and organizations comprising the Big Six were: Roy Wilkins, NAACP; Whitney Young, Jr., Urban League; A. Philip Randolph, Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters; John Lewis, SNCC; and James Farmer of the Congress of Racial Equality (CORE). For King, this role was another which courted controversy, as he was one of the key figures who acceded to the wishes of President John F. Kennedy in changing the focus of the march. Kennedy initially opposed the march outright, because he was concerned it would negatively impact the drive for passage of civil rights legislation, but the organizers were firm that the march would proceed.
The march originally was conceived as an event to dramatize the desperate condition of blacks in the South and a very public opportunity to place organizers' concerns and grievances squarely before the seat of power in the nation's capital. Organizers intended to excoriate and then challenge the federal government for its failure to safeguard the civil rights and physical safety of civil rights workers and blacks, generally, in the South. However, the group acquiesced to presidential pressure and influence, and the event ultimately took on a far less strident tone.
As a result, some civil rights activists felt it presented an inaccurate, sanitized pageant of racial harmony; Malcolm X called it the "Farce on Washington," and members of the Nation of Islam who attended the march faced a temporary suspension.
The march did, however, make specific demands: an end to racial segregation in public school; meaningful civil rights legislation, including a law prohibiting racial discrimination in employment; protection of civil rights workers from police brutality; a $2 minimum wage for all workers; and self-government for the District of Columbia, then governed by congressional committee.
Despite tensions, the march was a resounding success. More than a quarter of a million people of diverse ethnicities attended the event, sprawling from the steps of the Lincoln Memorial onto the National Mall and around the reflecting pool. At the time, it was the largest gathering of protesters in Washington's history. King's I Have a Dream speech electrified the crowd. It is regarded, along with Abraham Lincoln's Gettysburg Address, as one of the finest speeches in the history of American oratory. President Kennedy, himself opposed to the march, met King afterwards with enthusiasm — repeating King's line back to him; "I have a dream", while nodding with approval.
Throughout his career of service, King wrote and spoke frequently, drawing on his long experience as a preacher. His "Letter from Birmingham Jail", written in 1963, is a passionate statement of his crusade for justice. On October 14, 1964, King became the youngest recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize, which was awarded to him for leading non-violent resistance to end racial prejudice in the United States.
Stance on compensation
On several occasions Martin Luther King Jr. expressed a view that black Americans, as well as other disadvantaged Americans, should be compensated for historical wrongs. Speaking to Alex Haley in 1965, he said that granting black Americans only equality could not realistically close the economic gap between them and whites. King said that he did not seek a full restitution of wages lost to slavery, which he believed impossible, but proposed a government compensatory program of US $50 billion over ten years to all disadvantaged groups. He posited that "the money spent would be more than amply justified by the benefits that would accrue to the nation through a spectacular decline in school dropouts, family breakups, crime rates, illegitimacy, swollen relief rolls, rioting and other social evils." His 1964 book Why We Can't Wait elaborated this idea further, presenting it as an application of the common law regarding settlement of unpaid labor.
Main article: Selma to Montgomery marches#The first march
King and SCLC, in partial collaboration with SNCC, then attempted to organize a march from Selma to the state capital of Montgomery, for March 25, 1965. The first attempt to march on March 7 was aborted due to mob and police violence against the demonstrators. This day has since become known as Bloody Sunday. Bloody Sunday was a major turning point in the effort to gain public support for the Civil Rights Movement, the clearest demonstration up to that time of the dramatic potential of King's nonviolence strategy. King, however, was not present. After meeting with President Lyndon B. Johnson, he attempted to delay the march until March 8, but the march was carried out against his wishes and without his presence by local civil rights workers. Footage of the police brutality against the protesters was broadcast extensively, and aroused national public outrage.
The second attempt at the march on March 9 was ended when King stopped the procession at the Edmund Pettus Bridge on the outskirts of Selma, an action which he seemed to have negotiated with city leaders beforehand. This unexpected action aroused the surprise and anger of many within the local movement. The march finally went ahead fully on March 25, and it was during this march that Willie Ricks coined the phrase "Black Power" (widely credited to Stokely Carmichael).
African American civil rights activist Bayard Rustin counseled King to dedicate himself to the principles of non-violence in 1956, and had a leadership role in organizing the 1963 March on Washington. However, Rustin's open homosexuality and support of democratic socialism and ties to the Communist Party USA caused many white and African American leaders to demand that King distance himself from Rustin, which he did on several occasions, but not all — such as when he ensured Rustin's role in the March on Washington.
In 1966, after several successes in the South, King and other people in the civil rights organizations tried to spread the movement to the North, with Chicago as its first target. King and Ralph Abernathy, both middle class folk, moved into Chicago's slums as an educational experience and to demonstrate their support and empathy for the poor.
Their organization, The Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC) formed a coalition with CCCO, Coordinating Council of Community Organizations, an organization itself founded by Albert Raby, Jr., and the combined organizations' efforts were fostered under the aegis of The Chicago Freedom Movement (CFM). During that Spring a number of dual white couple/black couple tests on real estate offices uncovered the practice, now banned by the Real Estate Industry, of "steering"; these tests revealed the racially selective processing of housing requests by couples who were exact matches in income, background, number of children, and other attributes, with the only difference being their race.
The needs of the movement for radical change grew and several larger marches were planned and executed, including those in the following neighborhoods: Bogan, Belmont-Cragin, Jefferson Park, Evergreen Park (A Suburb southwest of Chicago), Gage Park and Marquette Park, among others.
In Chicago, Abernathy would later write, they received a worse reception than they had in the South. Their marches were met by thrown bottles and screaming throngs, and they were truly afraid of starting a riot. King's beliefs mitigated against his staging a violent event; if King had intimations that a peaceful march would be put down with violence he would call it off for the safety of others. Nonetheless, he led these marches in the face of death threats to his person. And in Chicago the violence was so formidable it shook the two friends.
Another problem was the duplicitousness of the city leaders. Abernathy and King secured agreements on action to be taken, but this action was subverted after-the-fact by politicians within Mayor Richard J. Daley's corrupt machine. Abernathy could not stand the slums and secretly moved out after a short period. King stayed and wrote of the emotional impact Coretta and his children suffered from the horrid conditions.
When King and his allies returned to the south, they left Jesse Jackson, a seminary student who had previously joined the movement in the south, in charge of their organization. Jackson displayed oratorical skill, and organized the first successful boycotts against chain stores. One such campaign targeted A&P Stores which refused to hire blacks as clerks; the campaign was so effective that it laid the groundwork for the equal opportunity programs begun in the 1970s. Jackson also initiated the first "Black Expo" under the auspices of SCLC as Operation Breadbasket, and continued free standing as Operation PUSH after a split with SCLC. Black Expo became P.U.S.H. Expo, which continued to showcase the many long-standing and newly formed Black Businesses such as Johnson Publishing, Parker House Sausage, Seaway National Bank, and many businesses that continue today, and which owe their existence to P.U.S.H. EXCEL, the current form of the organization.
Starting in 1965, King began to express doubts about the United States' role in the Vietnam War. In an April 4, 1967 appearance at the New York City Riverside Church — exactly one year before his death — King delivered Beyond Vietnam: A Time to Break Silence. In the speech he spoke strongly against the U.S.'s role in the war, insisting that the U.S. was in Vietnam "to occupy it as an American colony" and calling the US government "the greatest purveyor of violence in the world today." But he also argued that the country needed larger and broader moral changes:
A true revolution of values will soon look uneasily on the glaring contrast of poverty and wealth. With righteous indignation, it will look across the seas and see individual capitalists of the West investing huge sums of money in Asia, Africa and South America, only to take the profits out with no concern for the social betterment of the countries, and say: "This is not just."
King was long hated by many white southern segregationists, but this speech turned the more mainstream media against him. Time called the speech "demagogic slander that sounded like a script for Radio Hanoi", and The Washington Post declared that King had "diminished his usefulness to his cause, his country, his people."
With regards to Vietnam, King often claimed that North Vietnam "did not begin to send in any large number of supplies or men until American forces had arrived in the tens of thousands." King also praised North Vietnam's land reform. He accused the United States of having killed a million Vietnamese, "mostly children."
The speech was a reflection of King's evolving political advocacy in his later years, sparked in part by his affiliation with and training at the progressive Highlander Research and Education Center. King began to speak of the need for fundamental changes in the political and economic life of the nation. Toward the end of his life, King more frequently expressed his opposition to the war and his desire to see a redistribution of resources to correct racial and economic injustice. Though his public language was guarded, so as to avoid being linked to communism by his political enemies, in private he sometimes spoke of his support for democratic socialism:
You can't talk about solving the economic problem of the ***** without talking about billions of dollars. You can't talk about ending the slums without first saying profit must be taken out of slums. You're really tampering and getting on dangerous ground because you are messing with folk then. You are messing with captains of industry… Now this means that we are treading in difficult water, because it really means that we are saying that something is wrong… with capitalism… There must be a better distribution of wealth and maybe America must move toward a democratic socialism. (Frogmore, S.C. November 14, 1966. Speech in front of his staff.)
King had read Marx while at Morehouse, but while he rejected "traditional capitalism," he also rejected Communism due to its "materialistic interpretation of history" that denied religion, its "ethical relativism," and its "political totalitarianism."
King also stated in his "Beyond Vietnam" speech  that "True compassion is more than flinging a coin to a beggar; it comes to see that an edifice which produces beggars needs restructuring." From Vietnam to South Africa to Latin America, King said, the U.S. was "on the wrong side of a world revolution." King questioned "our alliance with the landed gentry of Latin America," and asked why the U.S. was suppressing revolutions "of the shirtless and barefoot people" in the Third World, instead of supporting them.
In 1968, King and the SCLC organized the "Poor People's Campaign" to address issues of economic justice. However, according to the article "Coalition Building and Mobilization Against Poverty", King and SCLC's Poor People's Campaign was not supported by the other leaders of the Civil Rights Movement, including Bayard Rustin. Their opposition incorporated arguments that the goals of Poor People Campaign was too broad, the demands unrealizable, and thought these campaigns would accelerate the backlash and repression on the poor and the black.
The campaign culminated in a march on Washington, D.C. demanding economic aid to the poorest communities of the United States. He crisscrossed the country to assemble "a multiracial army of the poor" that would descend on Washington—engaging in nonviolent civil disobedience at the Capitol, if need be—until Congress enacted a poor people's bill of rights. Reader's Digest warned of an "insurrection."
King's economic bill of rights called for massive government jobs programs to rebuild America's cities. He saw a crying need to confront a Congress that had demonstrated its "hostility to the poor"—appropriating "military funds with alacrity and generosity," but providing "poverty funds with miserliness." His vision was for change that was more revolutionary than mere reform: he cited systematic flaws of racism, poverty, militarism and materialism, and that "reconstruction of society itself is the real issue to be faced.".
In April 3, 1968, at Mason Temple (Church of God in Christ, Inc. - World Headquarters) King prophetically told a euphoric crowd during his "I've Been to the Mountaintop" speech:
It really doesn't matter what happens now… some began to… talk about the threats that were out—what would happen to me from some of our sick white brothers… Like anybody, I would like to live a long life. Longevity has its place, but I'm not concerned about that now. I just want to do God's will. And He's allowed me to go up to the mountain! And I've looked over, and I've seen the Promised Land. I may not get there with you. But I want you to know tonight, that we, as a people, will get to the Promised Land. And so I'm happy tonight. I'm not worried about anything. I'm not fearing any man. My eyes have seen the Glory of the coming of the Lord!
The Lorraine Motel, where King was assassinated, now the site of the National Civil Rights MuseumIn late March, 1968, King went to Memphis, Tennessee in support of the black sanitary public works employees, represented by 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, King returned to Memphis and addressed a rally, delivering his "I've been to the Mountaintop" address.
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 (there were fears Johnson might be hit with protests and abuses over the war if he attended). At his widow's request, King eulogized himself: at the funeral his last sermon at Ebenezer Baptist Church, a recording of his famous 'Drum Major' sermon, given on February 4, 1968, was played. In that sermon he makes a request that at his funeral no mention of his awards and honors be made, but that it be said that he tried to "feed the hungry", "clothe the naked", "be right on the [Vietnam] war question", and "love and serve humanity". Per King's request, his good friend Mahalia Jackson sang his favorite hymn, "Take My Hand, Precious Lord", at the funeral.
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.
Martin Luther King's tomb now with his wife Coretta Scott King.King CenterOn 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 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 had.
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.
According to biographer Taylor Branch, King's autopsy revealed that though he was only 39 years old, he had the heart of a 60 year old man, evidencing the stress the 13 years in the civil rights movement had on him. It implies that in the 13 years prior to his death, he had aged 34 years or 2 1/2 times as much as a person living a normal life.
Allegations of conspiracy
Some have speculated that Ray had been used as a "patsy" similar to the way that alleged John F. Kennedy assassin Lee Harvey Oswald was supposed to have been. Some of the claims used to support this assertion are:
Ray's confession was given under pressure, and he had been threatened with death penalty.
Ray was a small-time thief and burglar, and had no record of committing violent crimes with a weapon.
Many suspecting a conspiracy in the assassination point out the two separate ballistic tests conducted on the Remington Gamemaster had neither conclusively proved Ray had been the killer nor that it had even been the murder weapon. Moreover, witnesses surrounding King at the moment of his death say the shot came from another location, from behind thick shrubbery near the rooming house, not from the rooming house itself, shrubbery which had been suddenly and inexplicably cut away in the days following the assassination.
Martin Luther King's tomb, located on the grounds of the King Center
In 1997, Martin Luther King's son Dexter King met with Ray, and publicly supported Ray's efforts to obtain a retrial.
In 1999, Coretta Scott King, King's widow (and a civil rights leader herself), along with the rest of King's family, won a wrongful death civil trial against Loyd Jowers and "other unknown co-conspirators". Jowers claimed to have received $100,000 to arrange King's assassination. The jury of six whites and six blacks found Jowers guilty and that "governmental agencies were parties" to the assassination plot. William F. Pepper represented the King family in the trial.
King biographer David Garrow disagrees with William F. Pepper's claims that the government killed King. He is supported by King assassination author Gerald Posner.
In 2000, the Department of Justice completed the investigation about Jowers' claims, but did not find evidence to support the allegations about conspiracy. The investigation report recommends no further investigation unless some new reliable facts are presented.
On April 6, 2002, the New York Times reported a church minister, Rev. Ronald Denton Wilson, claimed his father, Henry Clay Wilson, — not James Earl Ray — assassinated Martin Luther King Jr. He stated, "It wasn't a racist thing; he thought Martin Luther King was connected with communism, and he wanted to get him out of the way."
In 2004, Jesse Jackson, who was with King at the time of his death, noted:
"The fact is there were saboteurs to disrupt the march. [And] within our own organization, we found a very key person who was on the government payroll. So infiltration within, saboteurs from without and the press attacks. …I will never believe that James Earl Ray had the motive, the money and the mobility to have done it himself. Our government was very involved in setting the stage for and I think the escape route for James Earl Ray."
King and the FBI
King had a mutually antagonistic relationship with the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), especially its director, J. Edgar Hoover. Under written directives from then-Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy, the FBI began tracking King and the SCLC in 1961. Its investigations were largely superficial until 1962, when it learned that one of King's most trusted advisers was New York City lawyer Stanley Levison. The Bureau of Investigation found that Levison had been involved with the Communist Party USA—to which another key King lieutenant, Hunter Pitts O'Dell, was also linked by sworn testimony before the House Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC). The Bureau placed wiretaps on Levison and King's home and office phones, and bugged King's rooms in hotels as he traveled across the country. The Bureau also informed then-Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy and then-President John F. Kennedy, both of whom unsuccessfully tried to persuade King to dissociate himself from Levison. For his part, King adamantly denied having any connections to Communism, stating in a 1965 Playboy interview that "there are as many Communists in this freedom movement as there are Eskimos in Florida"; to which Hoover responded by calling King "the most notorious liar in the country."
The attempt to prove that King was a Communist was in keeping with the feeling of many segregationists that blacks in the South were happy with their lot, but had been stirred up by "communists" and "outside agitators." Lawyer-advisor Stanley D. Levinson did have ties with the Communist Party in various business dealings, but the FBI refused to believe its own intelligence bureau reports that Levinson was no longer associated in that capacity. Movement leaders countered that voter disenfranchisement, lack of education and employment opportunities, discrimination and vigilante violence were the reasons for the strength of the Civil Rights Movement, and that blacks had the intelligence and motivation to organize on their own.
Later, the focus of the Bureau's investigations shifted to attempting to discredit King through revelations regarding his private life. FBI surveillance of King, some of it since made public, attempted to demonstrate that he also engaged in numerous extramarital affairs. However, much of what was recorded was, as quoted by his attorney, speech-writer and close friend Clarence B. Jones, "midnight" talk or just two close friends joking around about women. Further remarks on King's lifestyle were made by several prominent officials, such as President Lyndon B. Johnson who notoriously said that King was a “hypocrite preacher”. It isn't clear if King actually engaged in extramarital affairs or not.
However, in 1989, Ralph Abernathy, a close associate of King's in the civil right movement, stated in a book he authored that King was a womanizer. The book was titled And The Walls Came Tumbling Down, and was published by Harper & Row. The book was reviewed in the New York Times on October 29, 1989, and the allegations of the sexual conduct of King were discussed in that review, were Abernathy says that he only wrote in the terms womanizing, and did not specifically say King did have extramarital sex. []. Also, evidence indicating that King possibly engaged in sexual affairs is detailed by history professor David Garrow in his book Bearing the Cross: Martin Luther King, Jr. and the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, published in 1986 by William Morrow & Company; though it was in fact never proven whether or not he did agree to have sex with a woman the night before his assassination.
The FBI distributed reports regarding such affairs to the executive branch, friendly reporters, potential coalition partners and funding sources of the SCLC, and King's family. The Bureau also sent anonymous letters to King threatening to reveal information if he didn't cease his civil rights work. One anonymous letter sent to King just before he received the Nobel Peace Prize read, in part, "…The American public, the church organizations that have been helping—Protestants, Catholics and Jews will know you for what you are—an evil beast. So will others who have backed you. You are done. King, there, is only one thing left for you to do. You know what it is. You have just 34 days in which to do (this exact number has been selected for a specific reason, it has definite practical significance). You are done. There is but one way out for you. You better take it before your filthy fraudulent self is bared to the nation." This statement is often interpreted as inviting King's suicide, though William Sullivan argued that it may have only been intended to "convince King to resign from the SCLC."
Finally, the Bureau's investigation shifted away from King's personal life to intelligence and counterintelligence work on the direction of the SCLC and the Black Power movement.
In January 31, 1977, in the cases of Bernard S. Lee v. Clarence M. Kelley, et al. and Southern Christian Leadership Conference v. Clarence M. Kelley, et al. United States District Judge John Lewis Smith, Jr., ordered all known copies of the recorded audiotapes and written transcripts resulting from the FBI's electronic surveillance of King between 1963 and 1968 to be held in the National Archives and sealed from public access until 2027.
Across from the Lorraine Motel, next to the rooming house in which James Earl Ray was staying, was a vacant fire station. The FBI was assigned to observe King during the appearance he was planning to make on the Lorraine Motel second-floor balcony later that day, and utilized the fire station as a makeshift base. Using papered-over windows with peepholes cut into them, the agents watched over the scene until Martin Luther King was shot. Immediately following the shooting, all six agents rushed out of the station and were the first people to administer first-aid to King. Their presence nearby has led to speculation that the FBI was involved in the assassination.
Awards and recognition
From the Gallery of 20th century martyrs at Westminster Abbey- Mother Elizabeth of Russia, Martin Luther King, Archbishop Oscar Romero, Pastor Dietrich BonhoefferBesides winning the 1964 Nobel Peace Prize, in 1965 the American Jewish Committee presented King with the American Liberties Medallion for his "exceptional advancement of the principles of human liberty." Reverend King said in his acceptance remarks, "Freedom is one thing. You have it all or you are not free."
As of 2006, more than 730 cities in the United States had streets named after King. King County, Washington rededicated its name in his honor in 1986, and changed its logo to an image of his face in 2007. The city government center in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania is the only city hall in the United States to be named in honor of King.
In 1965 King was awarded the Pacem in Terris Award. It was named after a 1963 encyclical letter by Pope John XXIII that calls upon all people of good will to secure peace among all nations. Pacem in Terris is Latin for 'Peace on Earth.'
In 1966, the Planned Parenthood Federation of America awarded King the Margaret Sanger Award for "his courageous resistance to bigotry and his lifelong dedication to the advancement of social justice and human dignity."
King received The Marcus Garvey Prize for Human Rights, presented by the Jamaican Government, posthumously in 1968.
In 1971, King was awarded the Grammy Award for Best Spoken Word Recording for his Why I Oppose the War in Vietnam.
In 1977, the Presidential Medal of Freedom was awarded posthumously to King by Jimmy Carter.
King is the second most admired person in the 20th century, according to a Gallup poll.
King was voted 6th in the Person of the Century poll by TIME.
King was elected the third Greatest American of all time by the American public in a contest conducted by the Discovery Channel and AOL.