Civil rights icon Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated 50 years ago today at the Lorraine Motel in Memphis, Tennessee.
Reverend Jesse Jackson and former Ambassador Andrew Young were there when it happened, and they’re now sharing memories and little-known details about that day.
"It feels like it was yesterday,” Young said.
It was April 4, 1968 in Memphis, Tennessee. Before Andrew Young was an ambassador to the world, and before Jesse Jackson became a reverend and ground-breaking political figure. They were two young men dedicated to the cause of equality, led by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
It was a chilly Thursday afternoon at the Lorraine Motel.
"I was talking to him, telling him that he needed a coat and he sort of raised his head to test the weather and POW!,” Jackson said.
A single shot to his chin and King was dead. He was 39 years old.
Now, a half-century later, Young and Jackson return to the very spot where their friend and leader was assassinated.
"His shoes got caught under here and it knocked him out of his shoes,” Young said.
A photographer who was staying three rooms down snapped the iconic image as King lay dying.
"We were pointing over there because the police were here,” Jackson said. “They were running over this way and we were telling them to go back that way. That's where the shot came from."
"I don't think he heard the shot or felt it. I think it was a beautiful death,” Young said. “My first reaction was to be mad. My second reaction was to say, 'Well. If anybody is entitled to a reward, you have sure earned it.' You know, take your flight to heaven."
Young went on to serve as a congressman, a U.S. ambassador to the United Nations and as mayor of Atlanta.
Jackson continued social and political activism and ran for president twice.
"Every move I've made, whether it was a demonstration or running for the presidency, I always felt his spirit in some way and touched base with him before doing it,” Jackson said.
Jackson, now 76, and Young, 86, say King did not fear death.
And even as they stand on the balcony that was one stained by King’s blood, they’re convinced that he will never die.
"I've been to 152 countries. I've never been anywhere where people haven't wanted to ask me about Martin Luther King,” Young said.
"If he had been 89 years old, he'd be just an old preacher who preached great sermons,” Jackson said. “His martyrdom is power. His spirit is alive."