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.