“Could you lower those signs please?”

Senator Robert F. Kennedy said on the night of April 4, 1968, to a majority Black crowd in Indianapolis.

“I have some very sad news for all of you, and that is that Martin Luther King was shot and was killed tonight in Memphis, Tennessee,” Kennedy said.

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Screams of shock could be heard from the crowd as Kennedy read a speech still remembered.

The death of a King and the birth of a legacy
om Brown gives a historical presentation on Dr. King’s life to an audience Thursday, April 4 inside IPS Center for Inquiry School #27. (Photos/Jade Jackson)

The 2024 Kennedy King Memorial Initiative’s theme, “Still We Reach: Together We Can,” reflects a collective journey toward creating a society where love overcomes hate, understanding transcends prejudice and unity triumphs over division.

“I was 14 years old when Dr. King would visit my dad. This was in 1955 and ‘56. Then the next year he would come. I’m 15, then 16, and I’m knowing him,” said retired professor and pastor Tom Brown in a historical presentation at IPS Center for Inquiry School #27.

The presentation is usually held at MLK Park in front of the Landmark for Peace sculpture, which depicts King and Kennedy and was created to commemorate the events of April 4, 1968.

“I can’t tell you what I know, but I can say he was down to earth. He was serious. But imagine young men who were talking about something that we don’t articulate in this 21st century. They were talking about liberation and freedom.”

Brown became a part of that movement. He played a role in the progress for change, joining the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC).

The death of a King

He remembers the day that King was shot and killed.

“I was on the highway leaving Arkansas coming into Memphis to be at an affair. On the radio [they were] saying that Dr. King has been shot. I did a U-turn back to Dallas, Texas, and called my father who works with King. He told me what went on here in Indianapolis,” said Brown.

On the tragic evening of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s assassination, Kennedy’s words of peace, empathy and unity echoed the urgent need for reconciliation amidst racial tensions.

His call for compassion and understanding provided a beacon of hope that is remembered and revered through this annual commemoration.

The death of a King and the birth of a legacy
om Brown gives a historical presentation on Dr. King’s life to an audience Thursday, April 4 inside IPS Center for Inquiry School #27. (Photos/Jade Jackson)

King traveled throughout the country and visited Indiana many times before his death.

The death of a King and the birth of a legacy
MLK Park’s memorial, “Landmark for Peace” was dedicated by former President Bill Clinton in 1995. (Photo via IG: Kennedy_King_1968)

The birth of a legacy

His most famous visit to Indianapolis was when he spoke at the Senate Avenue Young Men’s Christian Association’s Monster Meeting Dec. 12, 1958.

The meeting was originally going to be held at Northside YMCA, but due to King’s popularity, a large turnout was expected, and it was moved to Cadle Tabernacle, formerly located Downtown.

More than 4,000 people attended his speech.

Indiana Governor Eric Holcomb said that although more than half a century has passed since Dr. King was killed, his legacy of love and peace still inspires us.

“Indianapolis has more historic monuments and memorials than any other city in the United States other than Washington, D.C. Our capital city takes great pride in remembering Indiana’s connection to the past,” said Sen. Todd Young.

“One of the most striking memorials in my opinion is the Landmark for Peace. This memorial honors two men, Robert F. Kennedy and Martin Luther King Jr., whose lives were tragically cut short just 63 days apart in 1968.”

State Rep. Andre Carson said the annual event honoring this memorial is a way for residents to recommit themselves to Kennedy’s words.

Indianapolis Mayor Joe Hogsett said the words Kennedy spoke were important in highlighting a much larger movement during troubled times.

“It is for this reason, among many others, that I am honored to attend this solemn anniversary. I consider the improvements and the upgrades coming to this park to be a part of that preservation by the end of the year,” said Hogsett.

“The King Park will be getting $5 million worth of improvements, including what I am sure will be a magnificent memorial plaza to surround the sculpture.”

Contact staff writer Jade Jackson at (317) 762-7853 or by email JadeJ@IndyRecorder.com. Follow her on Twitter @IAMJADEJACKSON.