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April 4, 1968: Martin Luther King is assassinated.
On April 4, 1968, LIFE photographer Henry Groskinsky and writer Mike Silva, on assignment in Alabama, learned that Martin Luther King, Jr., had been shot at the Lorraine Motel in Memphis. The two men jumped into their car, raced the 200 miles to the scene of the crime, and there — to their astonishment — found that they had unfettered access to the hotel’s grounds; to the abandoned buildings from which the rifle shot likely came; to Dr. King’s room; and to the bleak, blood-stained balcony where the civil rights leader had fallen, mortally wounded by an assassin’s bullet, mere hours earlier.
Unpublished: Outside of room 306, Theatrice Bailey, the brother of the motel’s owner, sweeps blood from the balcony.
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(Henry Groskinsky—Time & Life Pictures/Getty Images)