Martin Luther King was an American civil rights leader best known for making great advancements in civil rights for Black people. Born on January 15th 1929 to Alberta Williams King and Martin Luther King Sr., he would go onto give some of the greatest speeches in American history. Luther King led the 1955 Montgomery Bus Boycott; the 1963 March on Washington; and he helped to organize the 1965 Selma to Montgomery March. In October of 1964, he received the Nobel Peace Prize because he combated racial inequality through nonviolent resistance.
Martin received many death threats due to his involvement in the Civil Rights Movement. He said to his wife after the assassination of John F. Kennedy that, "This is what is going to happen to me also. I keep telling you, this is a sick society."
On April 3rd 1968, Martin went to Memphis to speak to a crowd at the Mason Temple, but little did he know that he would deliver the last speech of his life. He stayed at the Lorraine Motel in room 306 every time he went to Memphis. He did it so often, that the room was known as "King Abernathy Suite". On the evening of April 4th, King went on onto the hotel balcony and was hit at 6:01 p.m. by a single 0.30-0.6 bullet. The bullet hit him in the cheek, breaking his jaw and severing his jugular vein. He was then rushed to the St. Joseph's Hospital where cardiopulmonary resuscitation was attempted. He was pronounced dead at 7:05 p.m.
Briefly after King was shot, witnesses claimed to see a man leaving a rooming house across the street from the Lorraine Motel. It was later found that James Earl Ray the perpetrator, rented a room there and also left a rifle and binoculars which both had his fingerprints. After the FBI investigated, there was a manhunt for James. Two months later, James was captured at London's Heathrow Airport while attempting to leave England on a fake Canadian passport. He was then extradited back to the United States where he was charged with the murder of Martin Luther King Jr in Tennessee.
On March 10th 1969, Ray confessed to assassinating Martin Luther King Jr. reportedly because of advice from his lawyer in order to avoid the death penalty. He received a sentence of 99 years in prison and then tried to change his sentence three days later. In 1977, Ray along with 7 other convicts escaped the State Penitentiary and were recaptured 3 days after. A year was then added making his total sentence 100 years.
There were many conspiracy theories surrounding Martin's death, many citing government or mafia involvement and that Ray was just a scapegoat and not really involved in the shooting. After his death, there were numerous riots throughout the US and many of them his close friends had a difficult time accepting it. The 3rd Monday of January each year is an American Federal holiday in his honor.