With a click of a mouse, a Memphis police dispatcher can be heard announcing, “It has been confirmed that the Rev. King has been shot.”
As the 38th anniversary of the assassination of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. passed Tuesday, the Shelby County Register’s office posted on the Internet a series of historical documents and recorded radio dispatches detailing the events of April 4, 1968.
Nearly 20 minutes’ worth of police dispatches converted to digital format offer some vivid details of the day, such as officers searching for a suspect described as a “well-dressed” white man in a white Mustang.
King’s convicted killer, James Earl Ray, was arrested two months later in London.
“These are public records, but most people wouldn’t have access to it until the Web,” Register Tom Leatherwood said.
The online exhibit is listed as “Assassination Investigation” under the archives portion of the office’s Web site. The investigation is broken down by crime scene, evidence, Ray and other records with hundreds of photos, including the first-degree-murder indictment against Ray and a 64-page homicide report.
The documents have been stored in the county archives, which became part of the register’s office last year. Many of the original materials were donated to the National Civil Rights Museum, but the county kept copies.
“I think this can hopefully introduce these events to a new generation as well as revive these memories to a generation that was around at the time,” Leatherwood said. “A great man lost his life in Memphis, Tenn., over civil rights that we take for granted.”