It was a Thursday afternoon, 45 years ago, that King was rushed from the Lorraine Motel to St. Joseph's hospital, where he was pronounced dead.
It can be said that King knew his assassination was only a matter of time. His flight to Memphis the morning of his speech had been delayed by a bomb threat, and at the end of his speech, gave the memorable passage:
"Well, I don't know what will happen now. We've got some difficult days ahead. But it really doesn't matter with me now, because I've been to the mountaintop. And I don't mind. 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!"
He was pronounced dead at 7:00 p.m. the next day.
The following stories are United Press International coverage from April 4, 1968, when King was shot in the head by James Earl Ray, to April 9, 1968, when he was buried.
King shot, condition critical
MEMPHIS, April 4, 1968 (UPI) - Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was shot outside a Memphis hotel Thursday afternoon. His condition was called "critical" at the hospital where he was rushed.
Police said King was taken by ambulance to a Memphis hospital.
Police put out a bulletin for "a young white male, well dressed" who was seen running from a brick building across the street from the Lorraine Hotel, where King's car was parked at the time of the shooting.
Police said King was sitting in his car when the shot was fired.
Officers raced to the scene and surrounded the car and other units roared into the area and surrounded the hotel.
Early reports indicated the police had possession of the weapon.
King was in Memphis leading garbage strike marches. His march last Wednesday burst into violence that left one dead, 62 injured and 200 arrested. He had planned another march for next Monday.
Police said the assailant dropped the weapon while running down Main street about a block from the shooting.
Police said the assailant apparently jumped into a late model white car after the shooting and sped away.
Dr. Martin Luther's ceaseless war on bigotry
Thursday, April 4, 1968
By United Press International
Dr. Martin Luther King won his first big battle in the war on segregation in Montgomery, Ala., the cradle of the Confederacy.
The point of no return for the stocky Negro with broad shoulders and skin the color of burnished mahogany came in 1956.
King led the famed Montgomery bus boycott that brought integrated seating of buses in the Alabama capital.
It was a victory many Southerners found difficult to believe and it launched King on a campaign to abolish all forms of segregation.
His campaigns took him to St. Augustine, Fla., the streets of Birmingham, Ala., and rural Southern towns like Albany, Ga., Danville, Va., and Selma, Ala.
Advocating non-violence, he became the nation's best-known civil rights leader and his ceaseless battle won him the Nobel Peace Prize in 1964.
He accepted the prize on behalf of "all men who love peace and brotherhood."
King was pastor of the Dexter Avenue Baptist church when he became the driving force behind the bus boycott in Montgomery.
King kept up hopes of the Negroes with weekly mass meetings in churches for the entire year of the boycott.
It was in that year that King, long an admirer of Mohandas K. Gandhi's passive resistance movement that broke the back of British rule in India, perfected non-violence as the basic weapon for the war on segregation.
Since the Montgomery bus boycott, thousands of Negroes have gone to jail under King's leadership.
King himself was in jail more than a dozen times in seven years.
When he was in a Georgia jail in 1960, his wife pregnant with their fourth child, received a call from Sen. John F. Kennedy, then the Democratic nominee for President.
Mrs. King said Kennedy had told her he was "very much concerned for both of us. He wanted me to know he was thinking about us and he would do all he could to help."
King was released from jail the next day and Kennedy won thousands of Negro votes that helped make him the 35th President.
With the winning of the bus boycott, King came to Atlanta as associate pastor of his father's Ebenezer Baptist church and organized the Southern Christian leadership Conference.
King and his organization hit at the right of Negroes to eat in any restaurant, apply for jobs as policemen and firemen and to try on a dress in a department store.
He leaned heavily on the dramatic and the weight of public opinion. He used symbolic cities for campaigns that gained worldwide attention.
After a punishing drive in a city like Birmingham, his organization often grew unusually inactive.
"We are just taking stock," King would say.
A few months later there would be another campaign somewhere else in the South.
King logged hundreds of thousands of miles in cross-country flights, lecturing and raising funds for his movement.
King had numerous threats on his life, and at times of major campaigns sometimes referred to them in almost the detached manner of a man who knew he was marked.
Early in 1965, King's conference concentrated its drive for equal rights to Selma in Alabama's Black Belt.
The goal was to make it easier for Negroes to vote.
King's lieutenants organized a march to Montgomery, 40 miles away. Several hundred whites and Negroes in the march were dispersed by club-swinging police when they reached the Selma city limits.
Indignation around the nation was immediate and hundreds of white ministers answered King's call to join a new march on the Alabama capital two days later.
This attempt ended peacefully, despite a tense confrontation between King, personally leading the way this time, and Alabama state troopers.
King was in an Alabama hospital Oct. 14, 1964, undergoing a routine physical after months of ceaseless activity, when word came from Oslo that he had won the Nobel Prize.
His selection was lauded by many. But Southerners reacted angrily for the most part.
Eugene Bull Connor, former Birmingham police commissioner whose men had battled with King's followers in 1963, said the Nobel selection committee was "scraping the bottom of the barrel."
"He caused more strife in this country than anyone I can think of," Connor said.
Later, Atlanta civil leaders -- white and black -- sponsored a testimonial dinner for the Negro leader.
King accepted the prize but donated the $54,000 that accompanied it to the civil rights movement with an admission his work had not won the "very peace and brotherhood which is the essence of the Nobel Prize."
Soon after King was announced as the winner of the Nobel Prize he was branded as the "most notorious liar in the United States" by FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover.
Hoover said this was his reply to King's suggestion the FBI had been ineffective in the investigation of a Southern civil rights case.
Married and the father of four, King lived in a modest two-story brick home in Atlanta.
King lived with the threat of violence daily.
In New York in September, 1958, a Negro woman armed with a letter opener and a loaded automatic stabbed him while he autographed copies of one of his works in a Harlem department store.
It was the third attempt on his life up to that time and he narrowly escaped death.
Surgeons, fighting the possibility of infection, removed 2 1/2 inches of bone from his chest. The wound bothered him 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 front porch of his home a year later. It failed to explode.
In St. Augustine, King rented a beach cottage and it promptly was riddled with gunfire. He was not there at the time.
King was educated in Atlanta public schools (segregated at that time), Morehouse College in Atlanta, Crozer Theological Seminary in Chester, Pa., the University of Pennsylvania, Harvard and Boston Universities.
He earned a doctor of philosophy degree at Boston University in 1955 and a doctor of divinity degree from the same school four years later.
Such fear as he knew was not for himself but for his country, which he loved.
Many times in recent months he had expressed concern that the time was running out for completion of a peaceful revolution that would give black people a fair share in American life.
Last summer's riots caused him deep personal anguish: he felt the nation could not sustain many more such summers without bringing into power a ruthlessly repressive fascist type government.
Johnson urges nation to mourn King without violence
By MERRIMAN SMITH
WASHINGTON, April 5, 1968 (UPI) - President Johnson met with top Negro and Government leaders today and urged the nation "to deny violence its victory in this sorrowful time" of the death of Dr. Martin Luther King.
He also proclaimed Sunday a national day of mourning for the civil rights leader.
Johnson, who hastily arranged the top level meeting after a night of violence in a dozen cities, said at the session that "America shall not be ruled by the bullet."
His declaration served as an answer to black power militant Stokely Carmichael, who had told newsmen less than an hour earlier only a matter of blocks away, that Negroes "will have to get guns" and avenge the assassination.
Johnson called on men of "all races, all regions and all religions ... to deny violence its victory in this sorrowful time and all time to come."
"Men who are white - men who are black - must and will join together now, as never in the past, to let all the forces of division know that America shall not be ruled by bullet but only by the ballot - free and just men."
Johnson told Negro leaders assembled in the Cabinet Room that "once again, the heart of America is heavy - the spirit of America weeps - for a tragedy that denies the very meaning of our land.
"We have moved toward opening the way of hope and opportunity and justice. We have rolled away some of the stones - of inaction, of indifference, of justice.
"The work we have begun is not done. But together we shall overcome."
Roy Wilkins, executive director of the NAACP, Whitney Young, executive director of the Urban League, Housing Secretary Robert Weaver and Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall were among the Negro leaders who assembled at the White House.
Vice President Hubert H. Humphrey and Defense Secretary Clark Clifford joined the high-level talks. Others included Mayors Richard Hatcher of Gary, Ind.; and Walter Washington of Washington, D.C., both Negroes; Bayard Rustin, a New York and civil rights leader; House Speaker John W. McCormack, Senate Democratic Leader Mike Mansfield, Senate Republican Whip Thomas Kuchell (Calif.), and Cong. William M. McCulloch (R-O.)
After the White House meeting, the President and other participants went to National Cathedral for a memorial service for King. King spoke there Sunday night in his last appearance in Washington.
Within an hour of King's death last night, Johnson broadcast an appeal for calm.
"We can achieve nothing by lawlessness and divisiveness by the American people," the President said.
Hundreds of telephone calls came to the White House, some from as far as Sydney, Australia. Many callers suggested memorials to Martin Luther King and a number of congressmen said the first should be House action on a bill providing an "open housing" law for which King had marched and for which he was to have marched here again on Apr. 22, leading a "poor people's crusade."
Memphis hints clue in slaying; LBJ sends attorney general
MEMPHIS, April 5, 1968 (UPI) - Police Chief Frank Holloman today said that "certain evidence has been found which we believe will be helpful" in capturing the white sniper who assassinated Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
The hunt for the slayer was intensified with the arrival of Attorney General Ramsay Clark and other Justice Department aides sent here by President Johnson. Clark said FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover is personally supervising the case and "we are getting very close" to a solution.
Earlier 11,000 members of the Tennessee National Guard were alerted and 4,000 were sent to various trouble spots in the state. Mayor Henry Loeb lifted a curfew which closed all business and limited the streets only to "essential" persons.
The Memphis Commercial Appeal, a Scripps-Howard newspaper, offered a $25,000 reward for information leading to conviction of the killer.
Mrs. King flew from Atlanta to Memphis this morning in a jet plane chartered by Sen. Robert F. Kennedy.
The plane carried back the body of Dr. King. Funeral arrangements were being completed this afternoon.
Mrs. King did not leave the plane at Memphis but stood at the door as the casket was loaded. She kept her composure while the casket was being lifted from the hearse but collapsed sobbing on the shoulder of a woman companion as a freight lift raised the casket to the door.
Dr. King, the non-violent leader of the civil rights movement, was slain last night with a single shot from a 30-caliber Remington pump rifle with a telescopic sight. It was fired from the window of a communal bathroom in a flophouse across the street from the hotel.
The bullet tore a gaping wound in his neck and Dr. King fell in a pool of blood on the second floor balcony outside his room at the Lorraine Hotel. He was shot at about 7 p.m. and died an hour later.
"From evidence we have at this time, only one man was involved," said Holloman. The assassin was described as a white man, six feet tall, 165-175 pounds, between 26 and 32 years old.
He fled from the flophouse, dropping the rifle and a suitcase in the doorway before he leaped into a late model white car and sped away. Holloman refused to divulge the contents of the suitcase.
But he said the assassin had bought a pair of binoculars in the city yesterday.
Chief Holloman said Memphis was "under attack" last night with "people looting, breaking into stores and shooting, principally at police cars." However, the streets of the city appeared deserted early today.
The 39-year-old Nobel Peace Prize winner was in Memphis as a proving ground for his massive "poor people's campaign" on Washington later this month. When the march he led here last week burst into a riot, his friends and critics alike expressed doubt that he could keep the Washington demonstration non-violent.
Dr. King insisted he could, and he returned to Memphis Wednesday to draw plans for a 6,000-man march here Monday, vowing to see that it remained peaceful.
Wednesday night he told his followers at a mass rally that "like anybody, I would like to live a long life ... but I'm not concerned with that."
Yesterday at dusk, as he was about to leave the hotel in a Negro district to go to a friend's house for dinner, he strolled onto the balcony. He talked with his friends below.
A Memphis civil rights leader, the Rev. Jesse Jackson, said Dr. King saw him standing with Ben Branch, a musician who was to play at a rally a few hours later.
He asked Branch to play "Precious Lord, Take My Hand."
"I really want you to play that tonight," Dr. King said.
Then he told his chauffeur, Solomon Jones Jr., to start their car.
"I said, 'It's cold outside, Dr. King, put your topcoat on,'" Jones recalled.
"And he said, 'Okay, I will,' and smiled. Those were his last words."
Jackson said he started to speak to Dr. King again - "Dr. King," he called - and the he heard the shot. "It sounded like a stick of dynamite or a firecracker," he said.
"The bullet exploded in his face," Jackson said. Dr. King wheeled and fell on his back.
King slaying sets off violence at Negro ghettos, college campuses
By United Press International
April 5, 1968 (UPI) - The assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King last night sent shockwaves through America's ghettos, touching off one of the most widespread outbreaks of racial violence this nation has ever seen.
Three persons were killed and dozens were injured. A white youth suffocated in a fire set by rioting Negroes in Tallahassee, a white man died of stab wounds in Washington, and another man died in a fire set in New York.
The entire 28,000-man police force of New York was ordered on emergency duty and the vast port of New York was closed down tight as a memorial to Dr. King by the International Longshoremen's Assn.
Raging Negroes poured into the streets in at least 20 cities and towns from Harlem to the California coast. In some areas there was fire bombing and looting. In others, Negro students clashed with police, using guns, rocks and even arrows.
National Guard troopers were called out in Nashville, Memphis, Raleigh and Greensboro, N.C. In the South, most of the violence took place around Negro colleges.
The city where King was slain appeared to have less violence than others. A state of shock seemed to daze much of the river city.
Violence broke out in Charlotte, Winston-Salem, New Bern and Wilmington, N.C.; in Itta Bena and Jackson, Miss.; in Tampa, Fla.; in Birmingham and Tuscaloosa, Ala.; Oakland, Calif.; Pittsburgh and Cincinnati. Rock throwing and some looting took place in Detroit as pupils walked out of four high schools.
Students at Florida A&M in Tallahassee, Fla., rioted and fired on police cars. Some students used bows and arrows. Police did not return the fire.
In Toledo, Ohio, today, about 2,000 Negro youths roamed over a mile-square area of the West Side, throwing rocks at windows and cars.
Two policemen were shot by snipers in Detroit a mile from the scene of last summer's riot.
In New York City, Mayor John Lindsay wandered through the streets of Harlem offering condolences to Negroes. Gangs ran wild in the big city, smashing windows and looting in Harlem and Brooklyn.
The worst outbreak was in Harlem. Negroes hurled rocks and bottles through the windshields of police and fire vehicles, smashed store windows, ripped down iron burglar grates guarding store fronts and looted almost at will.
There were several fires, reportedly set by arsonists. At least three five-story apartment buildings went up in flames.
Negroes shouted they would avenge King's death.
In Itta Bena, Miss., two Negro students at Mississippi Valley State College were shot and wounded following a brick-throwing demonstration.
In Washington, small mobs roamed the downtown area, breaking store windows, vandalizing property and looting businesses.
Even staunch militant and black power advocate Stokely Carmichael could not stop the disturbances.
He went nearly unheard when he tried to talk the youths into going home.
North Carolina was the scene of widespread demonstrating.
Police and Negroes battled in the streets of Raleigh. Three officers were injured slightly. One Negro youth was shot in the arm.
In Jackson, Miss., police sealed off a section of the city to quell a brief outbreak. Riot squads rushed to the scene in an armored vehicle when the rock-throwing started.
Most of the violence halted when Negro leader Charles Evers called a mass meeting. Evers attacked King's slayers, saying he had been trying to "do something for the poor whites who murdered him, for the cause of freedom."
In Cincinnati, two high schools were closed today at the request of the students in memory of Dr. Martin Luther King, but violence broke out near racially mixed Woodward High School. About 100 Negroes surged across the street from Woodward and broke 12 windows in the Sifton Shopping Center.
"We must retaliate," Carmichael decides
WASHINGTON, April 5, 1968 (UPI) - Black power militant Stokely Carmichael said today Negroes will "have to get guns" and take to the streets to "retaliate for the execution" of Dr. Martin Luther King.
"When White America killed Dr. King, it declared war on us," Carmichael told reporters. "We have to retaliate for the execution of Dr. King."
"Black people know that their way is not by intellectual discussions. They know they have to get guns.
Our retaliation won't be in the courtroom but in the streets of America."
Carmichael said that last night he had led Negro youths through Washington's Cardozo area - scene of widespread looting - to ask storeowners to close their shops out of respect for King.
"I want it clear that we are not stopping them from kicking in store windows," Carmichael said. But he added that in the future, "we will stop them from going out into the streets until they have guns."
Asked by a white reporter if he feared for his life, Carmichael replied: "You should fear for yours."
King's widow leads march of 10,000 in Memphis
MEMPHIS, April 8, 1968 (UPI) -- Mrs. Martin Luther King, dressed in black and with her children at her side, led a silent 10,000-man march today through this city where her husband was slain, then challenged her followers to see that her husband's spirit "never dies."
"Those of us who believe in what Martin Luther King stood for, I would challenge you to see that his spirit never dies, and we will go forward from this experience -- which to me represents the crucifixion -- to resurrection and redemption of the spirit," Mrs. King said. She spoke without notes for 15 minutes.
Standing straight and solemn, she traced the history of their life together from the 1955 Montgomery bus boycott to "Voting rights for political power."
"And now we are at the point where we must have economic power," she said. "He was concerned about 'the least of those,' the garbage and sanitation workers in Memphis, and that is why he came back to Memphis, to give you his aid."
The Rev. Ralph Abernathy, who took over the reins of Dr. King's Southern Christian Leadership
Conference, spoke following Mrs. King and pledged that the work of Dr. King would continue.
Abernathy, too, likened the death of Dr. King to the crucifixion, saying:
"Martin Luther King took his cross on his shoulder over at the Lorraine Motel, and there he was crucified."
Abernathy said he came to Memphis "not to participate in a memorial service, but to cry out to say to this nation and to this world: 'We are bound for the promised land.'
"We ain't gonna let nobody...whether it be Lyndon Baines Johnson or the Congress of the United States...we ain't gonna let nobody turn us around..."
Abernathy stressed that the movement intended to go ahead with Dr. King's planned "poor people's" march on Washington, declaring:
"We are going yes, we are going to Washington, but we are going to stay here in Memphis until this problem is solved."
Dr. King's campaign in Memphis was in support of striking garbage workers, who are demanding higher pay and an end to discrimination.
While the march and speeches were underway, National Guardsmen, with their bayonetted rifles at port arms, stood on rooftops, framed starkly against the gloomy sky. Police helicopters hovered overhead.
Labor leaders, entertainers, and the men who aided Dr. King through 10 years of civil rights leadership walked with his widow. Dr. King planned the march to support a strike by the city's Negro garbage collectors and to prove he could keep a massive demonstration peaceful.
But he was killed Thursday by a white sniper's bullet that felled him on the balcony of his hotel room, a block from the march route.
The march for the garbage collectors became a march in memory of King.
Walking eight abreast in silence, the marchers carried 12-by-18-inch placards on their chests, reading:
"Union Justice Now!"
"Honor King: End Racism!"
"I am A Man!"
Several thousand of the marchers were white. Many carried picket signs identifying their hometowns.
They came from across the nation, walking at a funeral pace. Scattered through the marchers were many priests and nuns, most of them white.
At City Hall thousands of white spectators lined the street, many of them with cameras, jostling each other to get a picture of the widow.
Mrs. King's plane was late leaving Atlanta, due to weather, and the march started without her. It went to the corner of Beale and Main Streets -- where the march Dr. King led here a week ago burst into a riot -- and stopped to wait for her.
She arrived in a caravan of police cars with flashing blue lights and stepped out, dressed in solid black. With her were her children, Martin Luther III, 10, Dexter, 7, and Yolanda, 12. Their fourth child, 4-year-old Albertine stayed in Atlanta.
The Rev. Ralph Abernathy, King's handpicked successor at the helm of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, helped her and the children out of the limousine. They flew to Memphis in singer Harry Belafonte's private jet and the SCLC officials came in jetliners chartered by New York Gov. Nelson Rockefeller.
Mrs. King, the three children and Abernathy took their places at the head of the march, and Belafonte walked beside Yolanda. Beside him in the front row was Dr. Benjamin Spock, the famed pediatrician and anti-war leader.
After she had walked a block, police tried to persuade her to ride in a limousine the rest of the way to city hall. But she shook her head grimly and walked on.
Five thousand National Guardsmen were on guard and hundreds of police, highway patrolmen and sheriff's deputies helped patrol every intersection.
One of Dr. King's aides, the Rev. Jesse Jackson of Chicago, looked at the march protection and said to an officer: "This is military occupation -- what are you trying to do?"
The marchers ranged from well-dressed Negroes with their families to workmen in rough clothing.
Signs identified contingents from Michigan, New York, Missouri, Chicago, Houston, Cincinnati, Detroit and other cities.
Heading the contingent of labor leaders was Walter Ruether, president of the United Auto Workers.
Vast throng pays King last tribute
ATLANTA, April 9, 1968 (UPI) - Martin Luther King was entombed today after a funeral tribute which saw his body borne on a creaking wooden, mule-driven wagon in a funeral march of 150,000 persons.
"The cemetery is too small for his spirit," said Dr. Ralph Abernathy, successor to Dr. King as leader of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference. "But we commit his body to the ground."
Dr. King was buried in South View Cemetery, the resting place of slaves.
The recorded voice of "Drum Major for Justice" rang out earlier in his own funeral eulogy as the Nation looked on.
Dr. King's family, his closest followers and the nation's leaders crowded into his austere red brick
Ebenezer Baptist Church for private ceremonies and an estimated 150,000 people, many sobbing uncontrollably, accompanied his coffin on a four-mile march to Morehouse College for public services.
The slain integration leader - the man who had a dream of racial freedom - was carried through the streets in an old wooden-wheeled wagon drawn by two workworn, leather-collared mules.
Behind the wagon, obscured from view much of the time by the enormous crowd, walked Dr. King's widow, his brother and his children, followed by governors, senators and mayors from across the nation.
The daylong funeral service, unique in American history, was to end with his entombment in a crypt bearing the legend:
"Free at last, free at last, thank God almighty, free at last."
Dr. King's slaying by a white sniper in Memphis last Thursday touched off violence across the land. As his burnished casket was borne from his church today, the House Rules Committee passed for floor action a landmark civil rights bill.
Vice President Humphrey, all the presidential candidates, Mrs. Jacqueline Kennedy, governors, lawmakers and show business stars stood in Dr. King's Ebenezer Church when the organ played "We Shall Overcome" - the anthem of his movement.
A driving, surging song of hope when Dr. King and his followers sang it in the streets of the South, it was a funeral dirge today, ringing through Atlanta, borne by organs, by church bells and the thousands of mouths.
At the end of the two-hour services in the church, the choir prepared to sing it again. But then the Rev. Abernathy, Dr. King's successor who has fasted since King was slain Thursday, announced the widow had asked that his leader's last sermon be heard.
His voice, tape recorded early in February, rang through the church.
Dr. King said to tell the man who eulogized him "not to mention that I have a Nobel Peace Prize - that isn't important.
"If you want to," the ghostly voice said, "say that I was a drum major. Say that I was a drum major for justice."
Most of the congregation burst into tears.
"Say that I was a drum major for peace. I was a drum major for righteousness. And all the other shallow things will not matter."
The funeral march was not supposed to begin until after the private services in the church. But the crowd grew so restive police ordered it begun several minutes before the services started. Tens of thousands began to walk, many crying, others singing.
Thousands more stayed behind to await the body.
The marchers tramped past the capitol of Georgia on the four-mile route to Morehouse College, Dr. King's alma mater.
"Come on, come on - get in, get in," they cried to bystanders. "He died for you, too."
Authorities estimated that the march was 40 percent white.
Robert F. Kennedy walked in the procession, his suit coat slung over his left shoulder. New York Gov. Nelson Rockefeller and his wife also were in the march.
An honor guard of firemen stood guard along the route. The marchers spread from sidewalk to sidewalk down the deserted streets. They stopped in front of City Hall and sang "The Battle Hymn of the Republic."
A few moments after noon, bells tolled again at Ebenezer Church and the family emerged, followed by the coffin.
In the church were Senators Robert Kennedy, Edward Kennedy and Mrs. Jacqueline Kennedy; Sen. Eugene McCarthy and former Vice President Nixon; governors of several states; ambassadors of most of the world's countries, and dozens of lawmakers, mayors and show business stars.
There were also athletes and entertainers along with construction workers, maids, milkmen and 1,000 garbage collectors from Memphis, whose strike Dr. King was supporting when a sniper killed him.
Among them was Black Power advocate Stokely Carmichael.
They rose when King's black-veiled widow, his four children, his mother and his father entered.
The funeral procession at Morehouse was to move up a circular walkway just inside the main gate to the campus. Two elderly women knelt beside the walkway for more than an hour, praying. A young woman held an umbrella overhead to shield them from the sun.
Clouds began disappearing from the skies over Atlanta about noon, giving even more color to the red and white of the dogwoods in bloom on the Morehouse campus. A young girl sat at a desk at the main gate reading a book entitled, "The Nature of Prejudice."
Nearby was an honor guard of Boy Scouts.
The marchers were 30 abreast for blocks when they reached City Hall. A police car driven by a Negro was at the head of the line.
The church service at Ebenezer ended at 12:13 p.m.
Bells began to toll.
"I haven't seen anything like this since the march on Montgomery," said a Justice Department official.
King's eldest child, Yolanda, 12, recited the New Testament scripture inaudibly in her seat while the Rev. E.N. Dorsey read it from the altar.
His youngest child, 5-year-old Albertine, chewed her fingernails and finally fell asleep against Mrs. King, who lifted the veil from her face and appeared exhausted.
The Rev. Ronald English, assistant pastor at Ebenezer, led the opening prayer:
"He has been to the mountaintop and his eyes have seen the glory."
Mrs. King listened to the minister, composed but with her eyes closed.
Dr. King's chief aide, the Rev. Ralph Abernathy, then praised Dr. King as a man "imbued with the philosophy of nonviolence."
He referred to a "sick" nation and said King had spent his life crying out to "let my people go."
The Ebenezer choir, wearing white robes, then rose and sang "When I Survey the Wondrous Cross," a favorite hymn of Dr. King's.
Mr. and Mrs. Jackie Robinson, accompanied by the ambassador from Ghana, were the last persons to enter the church.
On the printed program handed to those in the church, titled "Osequies, Martin Luther King, Jr.," there was a biography of Dr. King including his civil rights activities and ending:
"On April 4, 1968, an assassin took the earthly life of Martin Luther King Jr.
"Profound, but unpretentious; gentle, but valiant; Baptist, but ecumenical; loving justice, but hating injustice; the deep roots of this great spirit resolved the agonizing wrestling and gave all mankind new hope for a bright tomorrow.
"It is, now, for us, the living, to rededicate and rededicate our lives to the cause which Martin Luther King so nobly advanced.
"He had a dream."
The program also contained a list of memorable dates in Dr. King's life and the details of the services at Ebenezer Church and Morehouse College.
The front of the funeral procession reached the Morehouse campus at 12:53 p.m. Marchers nearby broke into a song, "I Woke Up This Morning with My Mind on Freedom."
By the time the procession reached Morehouse, more than 30,000 persons were on the campus. Many chanted repeatedly, "We Shall Overcome."
The crush of humanity was so great that the mule train, with Hosea Williams, an aide to Dr. King, leading the animals by their halters, was unable for a time to get through
During the main eulogy at the public ceremony at Morehouse, Benjamin Mays, president emeritus of the college and the man who steered Dr. King into the ministry, praised the slain Nobel Peace prize winner as a "Prophet for the 20th Century" and "Champion of All."
Negro spiritual singer Mahalia Jackson, wiping tears from her eyes, sang the hymn that Dr. King requested just before his death, "Precious Lord Take My Hand."
At mid-morning crowds began gathering at the South View cemetery in southeast Atlanta as Dr. King was being buried in a mausoleum made of North Georgia marble.
The cemetery is situated near the Atlanta Federal Penitentiary and is more than 100 years old. Slaves are buried there, as are Dr. King's maternal grandparents.
King's mausoleum is located on a small incline bordering one side of the cemetery. It weighs 14,000 pounds and measures seven feet in width, eight feet in length and is four feet high.
Work on the mausoleum has been under way on a 24-hour basis since Friday.
This morning, shortly after 9 o'clock, Mrs. Kennedy went to the King home, a brick, split-level house on narrow, tree-lined Sunset Avenue. A crowd of about 200 persons - most of them Negroes - were on hand to see her.
She stayed inside about 10 minutes and then left. She was followed almost immediately by Mrs. King, her face covered by a long black veil, who stepped into a funeral home car and drove away, followed by King's mother and father in another car.
Notable deaths of 2014 [PHOTOS]