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'They've Killed Martin': Remembering The Day MLK Was Assassinated

Civil Rights leader Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated in 1968.
Wikimedia Commons
Civil Rights leader Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated in 1968.

On April 4, 1968, Gary Heyde had just arrived for a conference at Kentucky State College. He and more than 500 students from every major black university waited in line to register. Heyde happened to be the only white student there.

No more than 20 minutes had passed when a girl came running into the lobby where conference-goers waited to register. “They’ve killed Martin,” she screamed.

At first, the room was cloaked in complete and total silence. Then chaos ensued.

“The students that I was with were in a panic, I mean, it’s not like any of us had ever been in a riot,” Heyde said. “So they grabbed me and they said, ‘Gary, we need to tell you this. When we first got here and we stopped at the dorm, students were already a little upset that you were going to be staying in the dorm. So I think we need to get out of here.’”

Gary Heyde barely escaped the calamity of riots and violence surrounding him. He made it out. Listen (at 10:31 for those short on time) to find out how.

This archive originally aired in October 2011. Produced for the Web by Brieana Ripley.

Since this interview aired, Heyde made a short documentary about this day: