The funeral of Dr. Martin Luther King is a moment in history immortalized in photos. Political figures, activists, foreign dignitaries, and more joined friends and family to remember the life of Dr. King at the Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta, nearly 50 years ago today (April 9).
Among those in attendance were Ossie Davis and Ruby Dee, Harry Belafonte, Eartha Kitt, Sammie Davis Jr., activist Kwame Ture (a.k.a. Stokely Carmichael), Thurgood Marshall, the Rev. Jesse Jackson, Jackie Kennedy, Robert F. Kennedy, and a young Samuel L. Jackson who served as an usher at the funeral.
King’s final sermon at Ebenezer Baptist Church served as his eulogy, at the request of his widow, Corretta Scott King.
“Every now and then I guess we all think realistically about that day when we will be victimized with what is life’s final common denominator–that something we call death,” he began in the speech. “We all think about it and every now and then I think about my own death and I think about my own funeral. And I don’t think about it in a morbid sense.”
“If any of you are around when I have to meet my day, I don’t want a long funeral, and if you get somebody to deliver the eulogy tell him not to talk too long,” King requested. “Every now and then I wonder what I want him to say. Tell him not to mention that I have a Nobel Peace Prize–that isn’t important. Tell not to mention that have 300 or 400 other awards–that’s not important. Tell him not to mention where I went to school. I’d like somebody to mention that day that Martin Luther King Jr. tried to give his life serving others. I’d like for somebody to say that day that Martin Luther King Jr. tried to love somebody.”
He closed with a final declaration: “I won’t have any money to leave behind, but I just want to leave a committed life behind. And that is all I want to say. If I can help somebody as I pass along, if I can cheer somebody with a well song, if I can show somebody he’s traveling wrong, then my living will not be in vain.”
The private ceremony was followed by a memorial procession to King’s alma matar,Morehouse College,for a public service attended by a crowd of 300,000.
King was assassinated at the Loraine Motel in Memphis on April 4, 1968.
See photos from the funeral below.