Former Sen. describes the hours before assassination in 'Dr. King's Last Day'

Former Sen. describes the hours before assassination in 'Dr. King's Last Day'
Published: Jun. 16, 2015 at 9:16 PM EDT|Updated: Jul. 31, 2015 at 11:29 PM EDT
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LOUISVILLE, KY (WAVE) - “Dr. King's Last Day” takes you through the last hours of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King's life at the Lorraine Motel in Memphis, Tennessee.

It is the fourth book from former Kentucky Senator Georgia Davis Powers.

Powers tells it like she sees it, including what she feels was a betrayal to those fighting civil rights, infidelities and everyday struggles of those fighting the struggle. She talks about the hours and the issues leading up to King's death and the five friends who spent those hours together.

Of the five friends, Powers is the only one still alive.

"This is the first time this story has been told by someone who was there," Powers said.

[MORE: Kentucky to mark 50th anniversary of March on Frankfort]

Powers' life is a civil rights lesson in history. She became the first person of color and the first woman elected to the Kentucky State Senate. What she has seen in 21 years of service in the Senate and during the fight for equal rights is more than most will ever experience including Dr. King's last day.

Powers gave great detail as she explained the trip to Memphis and all that happened during their stay.

Powers laughed as she thought of her call to Dr. King that lead to her leaving a Florida vacation to fight for the rights of 13,000 sanitation workers in Memphis.

"The first thing he said was 'Senator come and help me in Memphis. I need your help,'" she said.

Dr. King had settled into the Lorraine Hotel in Memphis, Tennessee.

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"I arrived the night before," Powers whispered, referring to the night before Dr. King was assassinated.

She arrived with Dr. King's brother, A.D King, and Kentucky Civil Rights Activist Lucretia Baldwin Ward.

As she told the story Powers sat in her favorite chair in her living room, surrounded by a tablet filled with tablets of paper and ink pens.

"I don't want to forget anything. When it's fresh in my mind I write it," Powers said. "I may not ever use it but I write it so I'll have it and I want everything to be accurate historically."

Powers described the details of the time and the moments with her friends and colleagues in a conversational manor.

The party of friends was preparing to leave for a dinner party thrown by Rev. Samuel "Billy" Kyles. Kyles had bought a new home in Memphis and was honored Dr. King and his party would come to enjoy fellowship and dine in his home.

Listening to the final moments of King's life is difficult.

"The court yard was full of people," Powers said starring off.

She looked at me as if she was still surprised.

"Just as I approached the door is when I heard the shot. It was so loud I didn't know what was going on," she said.

It was just after 6 p.m. April 4, 1968 when Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was fatally shot. A bullet struck him in the jaw severing his spinal cord.

"When I looked up on the balcony I saw King's foot and his knee in the air," Powers said.

She recalled watching the scene unfold as uniformed men ran through the court yard of the hotel and others took cover. Powers vividly remembers watching Civil Rights Activist Ralph Abernathy and Billy Kyles calling for help. Powers made her way to Dr. King.

"I was looking down at Dr. King," Powers said. "He was dressed with his tie ready to go to dinner. That bullet severed his tie right there," she stated as she pointed to her neck.

She looked off and whispered.

"A lot of people didn't see that. I saw it 'cause I was the first one there." Powers said. "In a matter of seconds he was lying in a pool of blood."

"Dr. King's Last Day" was written 47 years ago but never published until now. The book details more than the death of Dr. King. It points out many of the flaws and foibles of the tight knit group. Powers believes Kentucky Civil Rights Activist Lucretia Baldwin Ward feed the FBI information about their plans and appointments in their fight for civil rights.

"Betrayed! Betrayed," were the only words that came to her mind as she tried to explain the feeling of the group.

Powers alleged calls from an FBI Agent by the name of Jones would come in to Ward at the Kentucky Christian Leadership Conference and within minutes Ward would call him back.

"She would go out to the corner on the street phone and talk to him," she said.

Many of Powers' accomplishments, struggles and sorrows have been shared with the world. "Dr. King's Last Day" is one of the most important.

"I looked out the window and looked upstairs. There were two men there scraping dried blood off the concrete. It just went all through me," she recalled as she dropped her head almost in prayer.

The book is available at:

Carmichael's Book Store
2720 Frankfort Avenue
Louisville, KY
502-896-6950

Hathaway and Clark Funereal Home
2718 Virginia Avenue
Louisville, KY
502-778-7096

Phil's Pawn Shop
2134 Frankfort Avenue
Louisville, KY
502-894-9123

Senator Powers is working to place signed copies of the book eBay soon. All the proceeds of the book go toward funding scholarships for youth for the Georgia Powers Foundation.

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