Saturday, April 04, 2009

Exclusive Life Photos: The Day MLK Died...

Just Published Photos Show MLK Killing Aftermath
By WALTER PUTNAM, Associated Press

ATLANTA – Almost 41 years to the day after the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated, newly published photographs of the aftermath of his shooting at the Lorraine Motel in Memphis, Tenn., are on a magazine's Web site.

About a dozen black-and-white pictures published on Thursday include scenes of King's associates meeting solemnly in the civil rights leader's motel room, standing on the balcony where he stood for the last time, and workers cleaning the last of the blood.

They were taken April 4, 1968, by Life magazine photographer Henry Groskinsky, who was on assignment in Alabama with writer Mike Silva when they learned that King had been shot in Memphis and rushed to the scene.

To their surprise, they had access not just to the motel but to King's room.

"I was very discreet. I shot just enough to document what was going on. I didn't want to make a nuisance of myself," the 75-year-old Groskinsky said in the caption to a photo showing a group of King's associates, including Andrew Young and the Rev. Ralph Abernathy, assembled inside the room.

"It's very somber, and there I am with a flash camera. So I took a couple of pictures and just kind of backed off," Groskinsky said.

There was no explanation on the Web site of why the photographs have not been published before now. A phone number for Groskinsky could not be obtained to reach him for comment Thursday night. Attempts to reach representatives from Time & Life and Getty Images were unsuccessful.

King was in Memphis to support black sanitary workers who had been on strike. The day before he was killed, King delivered his "I've Been to the Mountaintop" address in which he said, "I have 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 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."

He was standing on the balcony at about 6 p.m. the next day, when James Earl Ray fatally shot him with a high-powered rifle. Some of the more famous photos of that day show people on the balcony pointing toward where they heard the shots fired from across the street and one of King after being felled by the bullet.

The newly published photos include one showing King's open briefcase, a can of shaving cream on top of neatly folded pajamas and the book "Strength to Love" appearing from the top of the pocket. Other images are of the building where the fatal shot was fired and of the balcony from the building itself.

"The atmosphere of those dark, creepy buildings ... It was a little scary crawling into the building, because who knows who is going to be there? Who doesn't want you to be there?" the photographer said.

Copyright © 2009 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.

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