The year 1968 was one of the craziest of my life and one of the most eventful. On a good note I graduated from East Nashville High, married my high school sweetheart, joined the Air Force and found out that I was going to be a father. On the national level in Vietnam the North Vietnamese opened the siege of Khe Sanh in January. In February the Viet Cong opened an all out attack in South Vietnam called the Tet Offensive which was a disastrous failure for the Communists. They were decisively defeated but Walter Cronkite, and the left wing media, portrayed it as a defeat for America. As a result Lyndon Johnson made his surprising announcement that he would not run for President in 1968. Johnson said "if I have lost Cronkite I have lost the American people". Then 45 years ago today Martin Luther King was killed in Memphis. In June Robert Kennedy was assassinated in California and in my opinion would have probably beaten Nixon. In August while I was in Basic Training at Lackland AFB Texas the radical anti-war movement called took to the streets in Chicago. This was the beginning of the radical takeover of the Democratic Party which plagues us to this day.
I will never forget April 4th 1968 and the days following it. I was working at Baird-Ward printing co. on Powell Ave. in Nashville. This was just down the street from Houston Barracks, the Tennessee National Guard Headquarters on Sidco Drive. When we heard the news about King's murder some of my redneck white co-workers were shouting things like, "I hope the nigger SOB dies" and other racist slurs. I hated that many of my black co-workers heard these things. Far too many white people have never really understood that Martin Luther King helped to keep the lid on racial violence rather than promote it. He was the epitome of non-violence and sincerely believed in it. Riots broke out all over just about every large city in the US. The guard was deployed in Memphis and Nashville. I remember seeing soldiers, military and armored vehicles everywhere. Nashville had it's share of the violence. The Grand Ole Opry was closed for the first time in it's history on a saturday night.
The night after the assassination I got off around 11:00 PM. I was traveling north on 8th Ave. towards downtown. Nashville was under martial law and a 6:00 PM curfew was in effect for everybody except people who had to work and we were only allowed to travel to and from our job. The city looked like a ghost town and I was the only car in sight when off in the distance I noticed what looked like a huge mob of people standing in the middle of the road. I picked up speed hoping to get around the mob without being stopped when I suddenly slammed on my brakes squealing my tires. What I thought was a mob was a roadblock of police, state troopers and National Guardsmen. An irate police officer asked me "where is the fire boy"? Just then two blacks pulled up behind me and both were pulled out of their car and slammed against it. The cop told me to go home and not to make any stops along the way. Needless to say I was glad to make it home in one piece.
|Martin Luther King Jr.|
|Aides to MLK Pointing Towards The Sounds of the Shots|
|Guardsmen Patrolling Nashville Streets|