KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) — A friend of the late Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. recalled a conversation that he had with King before his murder in Memphis.
Rev. Dr. Harold Middlebrook, an active member of the civil rights movement, told WATE that he had a conversation with King about going to Memphis to potentially create a strong Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC) affiliate in the 60s.
Middlebrook said he and King were on a plane to Albany, Georgia in 1962. They were both going to Georgia to break ground for some churches that have been bombed. This conversation was before the church bombing in Birmingham, Ala., also known as the 16th Street Baptist Church bombing.
Middlebrook recalls King being hesitant to go to Memphis after being asked about not having a strong SCLC affiliate in the area.
“[Dr. King] said to me, ‘[Memphis has] a strong NAACP.’ And I said, ‘But we got strong NAACP chapters in other places that we have SCLCs,'” he said.
According to Middlebrook, King stopped for a moment before stating, “Memphis does not sit well with me.”
Despite his statement, in 1968, King traveled to Memphis after being invited to speak when he was soon shot and killed while standing on his balcony at the Lorraine Motel.
“It was a sorrowful day, you almost want to grab a sense of guilt that this would not have happened,” Middlebrook said. “Then the Lord speaks to you, and says, ‘I’m in charge and I have a plan.'”
He continues, “Not just Jan. 15 or April 4, but every day is a reminder, for me, that the challenge is still before us, that the struggle must still go on. We have to teach our children how to love each other, how to struggle to make this nation one.”
Middlebrook was joined by Bishop Farris Long at the MLK Celebration. Middlebrook said they celebrate the day to remember King’s leadership and spirituality. But to also remind ourselves that “we are people.”