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April 04, 2005

April the Fourth

April 4th. 1968. Preparing to lead a local march in support of the heavily-black Memphis sanitation workers' union, Martin Luther King, Jr. and his entourage stayed the night at the Lorraine Hotel in Memphis, Tennessee. The previous day an, as yet unidentified, man claiming to be an advance security man, ordered the hotel to switch Dr. King from a safe downstairs room to a vulnerable upstairs room.

At 6:01 that evening, Dr. King stepped out of his room on his way to get dinner, and stopped to lean over the rail to speak to is chauffer. A single shot from a high powered rifle ended his life.

The previous day Dr. King had said in a speech:

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. Mine eyes have seen the glory of the coming of the Lord.

While immediate reaction was mixed, given Dr. King's unpopularity in some parts of the nation, the idea of assassinating an outspoken advocate of non-violence so appalled the nation that support for the opponents of integration eventually withered, leading to the eventual end of forced segregation.

Ironically, in spite of Dr. King's efforts in life and the ultimate sacrifice he made -- to this day the bulk of Black Americans continue to live in voluntarily segregated neighborhoods.

April 4th, 1991. After speaking at a news conference in Williamsport, Pennsylvania, Senator John Heinz III, boarded an airplane for Philadelphia for hearings to investigate medical telemarketing. En route, the Piper Aerostar PA60 carrying him and four others developed landing-gear trouble. A helicopter was dispatched to examine the problem but the Bell 412 SP's blades accidentally hit the bottom of the plane, sending both aircraft to the ground, killing everyone on board. The two aircraft fell on a school yard at the Merion Elementary School in Montgomery County where children were at noon recess. Two of the children playing were killed as the wreckage fell.

Being heir to the H. J. Heinz Company, Senator Heinz left his widow a sizable fortune. She later married the self-confessed war criminal, Senator John Kerry and used the Heinz fortune to bankroll his unsuccessful attempt at the presidency in 2004.

Posted by Danny Carlton at April 4, 2005 08:57 AM

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