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Detroiters Remember Doctor King’s Assassination 50 Years Later

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Image credit: U.S. Department of State

King’s death left many young Detroiters stunned, hurt and worried about the future.

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Doctor Martin Luther King, Junior was assassinated in Memphis, Tennessee 50 years ago this week.  It was a day few Detroiters would forget.  WDET’s Jerome Vaughn talked with three notable residents about how they remember April 4th, 1968.

Jay ButlerWDET

Jay Butler

WDET music host Jay Butler was a disc jockey at WCHB in April 1968. He’d moved to Detroit from Tennessee just two years earlier. 

Butler says he was somewhere between Detroit and Inkster, on his way to work, when he first heard the news.

I think I said “Why?’  What was that about?  Why?  He wasn’t a threat or something.  Why would somebody do that?”

Butler says the news hit him very hard.

John Delle-MonacheJerome Vaughn
Jerome Vaughn

John Delle-Monache

John Delle-Monache is Ford Motor Company’s broadcast news radio specialist.  In April 1968, he had just landed his first radio job playing music at WHFI-FM in Birmingham.

Delle-Monache says he has a clear memory of the event. 

I heard the bells go off,” says Delle-Monache. 

That’s how the system worked backed then.  It was a bell on the UPI machine that rang if it was a bulletin and it was a continuous ring until you shut it off.”

Harvey OvshinskyJerome Vaughn
Jerome Vaughn

Harvey Ovshinsky

Harvey Ovshinsky is an author, journalist and television producer.  He’s also the founder of “The Fifth Estate”.  In April 1968, he was trying to figure out how to deal with an army draft notice.

Ovshinsky say he was so angry after hearing the news about King, that he broke a piece of chalk while writing on a chalkboard.  He says he recalled a song.

My Country ‘Tis of Thy People. You’re Dying’, which is a Buffy Sainte Marie lyric, from one of my favorite songs of hers.  And that’s just how I felt. ‘What the hell!  What’s wrong with us?’”

Ovshinsky says he thought, “If you can kill Doctor King, you can kill anybody.”

Click the audio player above to listen to the feature.

Jerome Vaughn, News Director

Jerome Vaughn is News Director at 101.9 WDET. He joined WDET in 1992 to help chronicle Detroit’s comeback and let people around the world know the truth about his hometown.

jvaughn@wdet.org Follow @jvdet

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