April 6, 1968

Mayor Thomas J. D’Allesandro III, led Baltimore in officially mourning the death of Dr. Martin Luther King.  This is what he said:

“This is a very sad day.  Dr. King was a responsible leader of the nation.  He was a churchman and distinguished citizen.

“From the very beginning he adopted non-violent tactics in trying to correct injustices in our society.

“I hope this tragedy will serve as a symbol to all Americans once and for all that we have to rid our society of the injustices hatred and prejudice which brought his death.”

This 1968 article collects quotes from Baltimore citizens in the immediate aftermath of Dr. Martin Luther King. (AFRO Archives Graphic)

George L. Russell Jr., City Solicitor:

“History will record that this is one of the darkest hours of our history.  We must do something to bring sanity back to our society. It is a deep personal loss.”

Sen. Verda F. Welcome:

“This is a tragic loss. Dr. King’s death is a tragic loss not only for colored Americans but for all people and the world.

“I hope we will remember the words of Dr. King that we can achieve nothing by lawlessness.

“I hope we press on toward the goals set by Dr. King for complete freedom and justice.”

Madeline Murphy, Community Action commissioner, and civil rights activist:

“The death of Martin Luther King is a senseless act.  A man who preached nonviolence is the innocent victim of a violent, White racist America.

“A man of peace had become a victim of war, the insidious war against 20 million Black people.

“We mourn him and shall mourn him on every rung of the ladder towards freedom from oppression which our Black brothers and sisters have suffered too long.

“Always his death will be a reminder that the sleeping Black giant must be awakened.

“We must sleep no more.

“We knock on every door- organize, mobilize, for action, for freedom in unity.”

Mrs. Jaunita J. Mitchell, president of Maryland NAACP:

“In his dying, Dr. King’s spirit of love and non-violence rise above the assassin’s bullet to inspire and challenge our youth to continue the fight for freedom with love.

“He has joined the long list of martyrs, Medgar Evers, Schermer, Goodman, and Chance of Philadelphia, Miss.  Vernon Dahmer of Hattiesburg, Miss., whose restless spirits call us to rededicate our talents and efforts to speed the end of injustice.”

James Griffin, chairman Baltimore CORE and school commissioner:

“Mahalia Jackson is singing, ‘ You There When They Crucified My Lord,’ – that’s how I feel now.

“The shooting of Dr. King demonstrates how White America will not tolerate nonviolence and passive aggressiveness on the part of Black people.

“It clearly points out that we have to reorganize our thinking and become unified as one.

“We must continue to push forward with even more vitality and determination and use whatever means necessary to gain our freedom.

“Even though I didn’t agree wholeheartedly in his approach to the problem he was more than ian inspiration to me.”

Parren J. Mitchell, Community Action Agency director:

“This is the ugly America. This is the America of the lynch law.

“This is the American of violence.  Not Black violence, but White violence.  Not Black hatred, but White hatred.

“The White community, White America, stand condemned.”

Former Mayor Theodore R. McKeldin:

“I think it is a great tragedy for America, that one of the greatest influences for peace and goodwill was killed tonight.

“The greatest way to honor him would be to continue his work for full recognition of colored people in every area of American life.

“We must do it vigorously and consistently, but peacefully the way he would have done it.”

Robert Moore, SNCC field secretary:

“What we find once again is that we cannot protect our leaders.

“I think that the Black community must move to protect its leaders and protect the community itself.

“White America has a plan of genocide for Black Americans.

“Rap Brown is in jail now.  He has not been convicted of any crime.

“Students at South Carolina State College had committed no crime when they were shot down by White cops.

“Martin Luther King had committed no crime when he was shot down.”

IN THE MEANTIME an {AFRO} reporter talked to the “man in the street” and found what he called an “Epitaph to Non-Violence.”

This is his report:

Shock, confusion, anger- the words seem trivial and inane when used to describe the reactions of the man in the street to sudden death of Dr. Martin Luther King last night.

In bars and on street corners, bus stations and buses, people reacted- some in buzzing, low incredulous whispers, others in silence- and others in angry threats.

“It don’t seem real, it just don’t seem real,” one youth stand on a Walbrook corner mumbled, his arms waving, pacing in front of two friends.

“Man that sure hurts me.  I swear that sure hurts me,” a second youth muttered leaning against the rain-streaked brick wall of a bar.

“This guy was one of the good guys- he talked about non-violence.  I didn’t dig it, but I admired him.

“Maybe this will wake Black Americans up to what’s happening, “ said Carl Williams an insurance salesman sitting in a Clifton Ave. bar.

“It should show every Black man in this country that no matter who he is, how big he is, or what he believes, if he wants his rights he’s going to have to die for them,” a middle-aged man at a table responded.

“Every Black man is vulnerable, and if they didn’t know that, they sure know it now,” –Melvin Reed, a West Baltimore barber said.

“My God there’s going to be some action this summer,” a youth standing on a Pennsylvania Ave. corner.

“I’m surprised it didn’t happen sooner- when he was in Alabama and Mississippi.  I guess I knew it would happen someday.

“But when it didn’t, it got so you kind of thought nobody would dare.

“Especially when Stokely and Rap Brown talk that talk, “a woman sitting at the bar in the Garrison Lounge remarked.

“I always wanted to meet him- I swear I just never got the chance when he was here,” a female companion murmured barely audibly.

“It’s the sign to fight- to let go.  This proves that the non-violence don’t work.  He preached non-violence and look at him now.”

“I admired King- he was a great- a great man.  But he set himself up to be killed.  Non-violence just ain’t the way,” a Bethlehem steelworker sitting in Ave. club said.

At the Greyhound bus station, three cabdrivers were engaged in intense conversation about the assassination.

“Anything can happen now- and I do mean anything.  This man has been killed for no reason at all.”

Second Cabbie: “I got four guns- and I’m willing to share them with anybody who wants them.”

…I just don’t see this.

“I just don’t see how you can keep talking non-violence when something like this can happen.”

Third Cabbie: “But Dig man- look at it this way.  If they raised hell about this, this would mean he died for nothing.

“King was trying to prove it could be done his way- no blood- rioting is just going to show he was wrong…”

The argument continued… snatches of conversation breaking through the slow raindrops, incoming Greyhound buses, and swish of tire wheels on the street providing a weird dirge.

THERE WERE numerous threats on Dr. King’s life and at times of major campaigns sometimes referred to them in a detached manner of a man who knew he was marked.

In the spring of 1964 he moved most of his organization into St. Augustine, Fla., for a big push against segregation in the nation’s oldest city.  His beach cottage was shot up one night and soon he talked again of being the target of an assassin.

Dr. King, his wife and four children, lived in a modest home in Atlanta.

A cross was burned on his lawn one night and the family often received threatening telephone calls.

On the rare weekends when he was free of engagements, he liked to relax with his wife, a gifted and attractive concert singer, and his youngsters.

He lived with the threat of violence daily.

In New York in September of 1958, a woman armed with a letter opener and a loaded automatic stabbed him while he autographed one of his books in a Harlem Department Store.

It was the third attempt on his life up to that time and he narrowly escaped death.

A team of surgeons, fighting the possibility of infection, removed two and one-half inches of bone from his chest.  The wound bothered him for the rest of his life.

AN UNKNOWN person fired a shotgun blast through the door of his home in 1956 and a dynamite bomb was thrown on the porch of his home a year later.  It failed to explode.

In St. Augustine, King rented a beach cottage and it was promptly riddled with gun fire.  He was not in at the time.

King traveled extensively in Europe, Asia, South America and Africa and was an official guest of the Prime Minister at the independence celebration in Ghana in 1967. His great-grandfather was a slave.