Remembering Kennedy & King

Hoosiers mark 50th anniversary of tragic day fate forever linked two slain leaders in Indy

Posted on Apr 02 2018 in Features, General

April 4 marks the 50th anniversary of one of Indiana’s shining moments in the darkness of a national tragedy.

Bronze and steel figures of Sen. Robert Kennedy, left, and the Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr., reach out to each other over a walkway at the Martin Luther King Jr. Park in Indianapolis. The monument, “The Landmark for Peace,” was dedicated in 1995 to the memory of the two assassinated leaders and the words of peace, prayer and brotherhood they spoke. It was at this park the night King was slain 50 years ago April 4, where Kennedy gave an impromptu speech while campaigning for president that many credit for keeping Indianapolis calm that night while 60 other major cities reacted with violence.
Photo by Richard G. Biever

On April 4, 1968, Robert Kennedy was campaigning in Indiana for the Democratic Party’s presidential nomination. That evening, he flew to Indianapolis for a planned inner-city rally. Upon landing, he was informed that Martin Luther King, Jr., had been assassinated in Memphis, Tennessee.

Told that riots had broken out in other cities and advised not to go, Kennedy proceeded to the park at 17th and Broadway where a crowd of mostly African-Americans had gathered. When he arrived, he realized most had not yet heard the tragic news of King’s death.

Instead of a campaign speech, he broke the news to audible gasps and cries. And then, he gave a short improvised, impassioned talk asking for peace, wisdom, compassion and prayers in the face of such violence. In the wake of King’s death, violence broke out in some 60 other cities across the country that night. Indianapolis was one of the lone larger cities that experienced calm. Many attribute that to Kennedy’s call for peace and prayer.

Parts of his impromptu speech were later inscribed on his own memorial at Arlington National Cemetery after the senator’s assassination two months later in Los Angeles. Some consider it one of the greatest modern speeches in the English language.

To commemorate the date, April 4 events at the site of the speech, now home to the Landmark for Peace Memorial at 1702 N. Broadway St., will include civil rights pioneer John Lewis and Kerry Kennedy, daughter of RFK, and other dignitaries.

DOWNLOAD an 11×17 inch PDF mini-poster of this photo with some of the encouraging words Kennedy spoke that night.