Today marks fifty years since Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was killed. On April 4, 1968, he was murdered at age 39 in Memphis, Tennessee, by James Earl Ray. King preached at the Mason Temple, headquarters of the Church of God in Christ, the night previous to his assassination. He had received numerous death threats and as obviously nervous whenever he heard loud sounds during his talk. However, his “I’ve been to the mountain top” speech is well remembered and seems fairly prophetic.
I don’t know what will happen now. We’ve got some difficult days ahead. But it 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. 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.
According to Joseph Rosenbloom, King was well educated as well as being an eloquent and powerful speaker. He could “exhibit the clipped diction of a lofty academic or the earthy vernacular of African American speech.” He seemed to have a photographic memory, and he often spoke without notes. His voice was a rich baritone and “was almost musical in its harmonic rise and fall. It was at once lucid and richly ornate.” Mary McGrory, columnist for the Washington Evening Star wrote that he spoke with “baroque phrases” and “mellifluous, mesmerizing tones.” This writer would add that Reverend King had a memorable and recognizable voice.