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Remembering the day Martin Luther King Jr. died

April 3, 1998
Web posted at: 8:44 p.m. EST (0144 GMT)

MEMPHIS, Tennessee (CNN) -- On Saturday it will be 30 years since the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr., but the image of the dying civil rights leader, surrounded by devastated colleagues on the balcony at the Lorraine Motel, is still fresh in our minds.

Photographer Earnest Withers was two doors away from that assassination site in Memphis on April 4, 1968 and supplied many of the other photographs of the aftermath of the assassination and of King during the civil rights movement from 1956 until the day he died.

"My partner called and said 'turn on the radio, King has been shot.' So I grabbed my camera bag and ran to the Lorraine Motel," Withers said.

Withers photographed the shocked residents of Memphis who gathered around the motel after the assassination, and later took historic pictures of the lifeless body of King resting in peace.

King had come to Memphis to offer support to striking sanitation workers.

Malcolm Pryor was one of the striking workers in 1968 and is still employed by the Memphis Sanitation Department. He marched with King and remembers the impact his presence had on him and other strikers in Memphis.

"It meant a whole lot to me. A whole lot to me," said Pryor. "We felt we were human beings, just like everyone else."

CNN's Gary Tuchman visits the scene of the assassination
icon VXtreme streaming video (2:45)

Charles Cabbage, a Memphis civil rights activist, met with King hours before he died and was in a car leaving the motel when he heard the fatal gunshot that came from the flophouse across the street.

"It sounded like a loud explosive boom. It sounded like it was right in the car window. We ducked," Cabbage said. "Everyone in the car ducked."

On Saturday, the King family plans a private ceremony at King's tomb in Atlanta. Memorial services will also be held in many cities throughout the country.

 
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