Little Rock Look Back: How LR reacted to Assassination of Dr. King

On April 4, 1968,  when Dr. King was assassinated, Little Rock did not see the unrest that many cities did.  Part of that was probably due to quick action by Governor Winthrop Rockefeller.

The Governor released a statement fairly quickly expressing his sorrow at the tragedy and calling for a day of mourning. He also made the State Capitol available for the NAACP to have a public memorial, as well as worked with a group of ministers to host an interdenominational service.

Little Rock Mayor Martin Borchert issued a statement as well:

We in Little Rock are disturbed about the incident in Memphis. We are disturbed regardless of where it had happened.  Killing is not the Christian solution to any of our problems today.

In Little Rock, we feel we have come a long way in 10 years toward solving some of our problems of living and working together regardless of race, creed or color.

The city Board of Directors in Little Rock has pledged itself toward continuing efforts to make Little Rock a better place in which to live and work for all our citizens.

We feel the efforts of all thus far have proved we can live in harmony in Little Rock and are confident such an incident as has happened will not occur in Little Rock.  We will continue our most earnest efforts toward the full needs of our citizens.

The day after Dr. King was assassinated, a group of Philander Smith College students undertook a spontaneous walk to the nearby State Capitol, sang “We Shall Overcome” and then walked back to the campus.  President Ernest T. Dixon, Jr., of the college then hosted a 90 minute prayer service in the Wesley Chapel on the campus.

On the Sunday following Dr. King’s assassination, some churches featured messages about Dr. King.  As it was part of Holy Week, the Catholic Bishop for the Diocese of Little Rock had instructed all priests to include messages about Dr. King in their homilies. Some protestant ministers did as well. The Arkansas Gazette noted that Dr. Dale Cowling of Second Baptist Church downtown (who had received many threats because of his pro-integration stance in 1957) had preached about Dr. King and his legacy that morning.

Later that day, Governor Rockefeller participated in a public memorial service on the front steps of the State Capitol. The crowd, which started at 1,000 and grew to 3,000 before it was over, was racially mixed. At the conclusion of the ceremony, Governor and Mrs. Rockefeller joined hands with African American ministers and sang “We Shall Overcome.”

That evening, Trinity Episcopal Cathedral was the site of an interdenominational service which featured Methodist Bishop Rev. Paul V. Galloway, Catholic Bishop Most Rev. Albert L. Fletcher, Episcopal Bishop Rt. Rev. Robert R. Brown, Rabbi E. E. Palnick of Temple B’Nai Israel, Gov. Rockefeller, Philander Smith President Dixon, and Rufus King Young of Bethel AME Church.

Earlier in the day, Mayor Borchert stated:

We are gathered this afternoon to memorialize and pay tribute to a great American….To achieve equality of opportunity for all will require men of compassion and understanding on the one hand and men of reason and desire on the other.

SELMA on CALS Ron Robinson Theatre screen tonight as part of “Movies of a Movement” series

Selma PosterTonight (February 21) at the CALS Ron Robinson Theater, there is the chance to view SELMA, the 2014 movie about Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s campaign to secure equal voting rights via an epic march from Selma to Montgomery, Alabama, in 1965.. The screening starts at 6:30.  Admission is $5.00

This movie is a part of the CALS Movies of a Movement: the Civil Rights & Social Change Collection.

The unforgettable true story chronicles the tumultuous three-month period in 1965, when Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. led a dangerous campaign to secure equal voting rights in the face of violent opposition. The epic march from Selma to Montgomery culminated in President Johnson signing the Voting Rights Act of 1965, one of the most significant victories for the civil rights movement.

Direced by Ava DuVernay, it stars David Oyelowo as Dr. King and Carmen Ejogo as Coretta Scott King. Others in the cast include Tom Wilkinson, Giovanni Ribisi, Andre Holland, Ruben Santiago-Hudson, Colman Domingo, Common, Lorraine Toussaint, Dylan Baker, Niecy Nash, Tim Roth, and Stephen Root.  John Lavelle plays former Arkansas Gazette reporter Roy Reed who covered Selma for The New York Times.

Arkansas State Archives, Black History Commission sponsoring MLK program

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“Looking Back, Moving Forward—Together”

The Arkansas State Archives and Black History Commission of Arkansas are joining with Bethel AME Church and the 12th District AME to sponsor an event in honor of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

It will be today at 3pm at the Bethel AME Church.

At the program, speakers will remember his legacy through worship as well as with the keynote address by former Secretary of Transportation Rodney E. Slater. A Marianna native, he served on the staff of Governor Bill Clinton before having leadership roles during President Clinton’s administration.

Slater is an attorney at Washington, D.C., law firm Squire Patton Boggs. In 1993 Slater became the first  In 1997, he was appointed to be the Secretary of Transportation.

For more information, call 501-374-9948.