Thousands gather in Memphis for 50th anniversary of MLK assassination

MEMPHIS, Tenn. (WTVD) -- Thirty-nine bells rang across the nation for the number of years Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. lived.

In Memphis, a fresh wreath was laid outside room 306 at the Lorraine Hotel where the civil rights icon was gunned down April 4, 1968.

"The impact severed his tie. Hit him in the neck. I'm convinced he never felt the pain," said the Rev. Jesse Jackson.

RELATED: Martin Luther King Jr. was scheduled to be in North Carolina the day he was assassinated in Memphis

That moment still feels raw for Jackson five decades later. He was with Dr. King when he was shot. Wednesday, he called his assassination a crucifixion.

Jackson and others who spoke challenged the audience to uphold his vision.

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MLK was scheduled to be in North Carolina the day he was assassinated in Memphis.

"Stop the violence. Save the children. Keep hope alive." Jackson stated.

The Rev. William Barber, who has taken up the mantle and leading the new poor people's campaign is demanding equal pay and humane working conditions for laborers.

"Nothing would be more tragic than for us to turn back now," said Barber.

Earlier in the day, in the spirit of King, people called attention to human rights injustices outside the labor union office for Memphis' sanitation workers.

And then they marched in similar fashion to the 1968 I AM MAN protest King led for 1,300 striking workers.

ABC11 found Triangle resident Al McSurely at the rally who recalled working alongside King for civil rights in the '60s

"Yes, he had dreams. Yes, he was a communicator. But really he was a revolutionary," McSurely said.

King was a man whose influence impacted many who travelled to Memphis from the Triangle.

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Wednesday, April 4 will mark 50 years since the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. at the Lorraine Hotel in Memphis, Tennessee.

Like Saint Augustine's University President Dr. Everette Ward, who now leads Alpha Phi Alpha fraternity. The same fraternity Dr. King was also a member of.

Ward said he was 9 in 1968 when he learned King was assassinated.

"I understood at an early age that I had to dedicate my life to service," Ward said.

Durham Pastor Benji Kelley traveled to Memphis with more than 100 members of his congregation at Newhope Church.

"They might have killed the dreamer but the dream lives on," Kelley said. "We've come so far but we still have a long ways to go."

Fifty college students from the nation's Historical Black Colleges and Universities performed during the ceremony at the National Civil Rights Center as part of the 50 MLK Legacy Choir.

North Carolina Central University students Zora Umeadi and Isaiah Mudd sang in the ensemble choir.
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