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The Night MLK Died, Washington Burned

In an excerpt from his book Most of 14th Street is Gone: The Washington, DC Riots of 1968, J. Samuel Walker reconstructs the night and day following the assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr., when parts of Washington, D.C., erupted.
Rev. Walter E. Fauntroy (right) walks with Sen. Robert F. Kennedy and Ethel Kennedy as they tour 14th Street in the aftermath of the riots, April 7, 1968
Rev. Walter E. Fauntroy (right) walks with Sen. Robert F. Kennedy and Ethel Kennedy as they tour 14th Street in the aftermath of the riots, April 7, 1968Bob Schutz/AP

The following is adapted from Most of 14th Street Is Gone: The Washington, DC Riots of 1968, by J. Samuel Walker (Oxford University Press, $24.95).

At 7:05 p.m., Eastern Standard Time, on Thursday, April 4, 1968, Martin Luther King Jr. was shot in the neck as he stood on the balcony of the Lorraine Motel in Memphis, Tennessee. United Press International sent out the first public report at 7:12 p.m., and President Johnson learned the news by reading it on a ticker tape in his office that provided up-to-the-minute information. At 7:25 p.m., he received official word but few details from Attorney General Ramsey Clark. King died at 8:05 p.m.