Interview with Ralph Abernathy
QUESTION 16
INTERVIEWER:

OK, we're in the last moments past five o'clock and Dr. King walks out to the balcony, you're in the room. Describe what happens.

RALPH ABERNATHY:

Well um, we were in conversation. I was standing in the room putting on some aromous[SIC] aftershave lotion or cologne. And ah, he had told me that ah, "Ralph, I want you to go with me. I would not go to Washington without you. And I want you to tell West Hunter Street Baptist Church that they have a revival that is greater than a natural and normal revival because we have to revive the soul of the nation." And he was saying to Jesse Jackson, "Be sure, Jesse, to get Ben Branch to play my favorite song. Ah. I wanted to hear it this evening, 'Precious Lord, Take My Hand'." And Jesse Jackson said ah, he would do that. And ah, then Reverend Jones, the driver, said ah, "Dr. King, you should wear your coat this evening." And he said, "OK, I'll get the coat." And I heard what sounded like a firecracker. And I jumped. And when I jumped I saw only his feet laying ah, on the balcony. And I immediately rushed to his side and I started patting his cheek, saying, "Martin, Martin, Martin. Don't be afraid. Don't be afraid. This is Ralph. This is Ralph. This is Ralph." And I got his attention. And he calmed down. His eyes were, ah, moving and, and he became very, very calm. And finally Andrew Young came up the steps and "Oh, God. Oh, God, Ralph. It is over." And I became angry with Andrew Young. And ah, said, "Don't you say that Andy. Don't you say that. It is not over." And Billy Kyle, whom we were going to eat with, came up and I said, "Billy get me an ambulance." And I heard nothing but a loud cry from our room. And I said, "Billy, keep yourself together. I want am an--an ambulance." And he said, "Ralph, all of the lines are busy. All of the lines are busy." But the FBI did call ah, the ambulance. And I went with him, rode with him in the back of the ambulance. And I committed civil disobedience and I would not leave the operating room. And finally the, the doctor came over to me and said, "You are Dr. Abernathy. And he will not survive. It will be an act of mercy because he would be paralyzed from his waist down and you may have your last moments with him." And I went over and took him in my arms. And he breathed his last breath.

INTERVIEWER:

Can you do me a favor and go back?






INTERVIEWER:

So picking it up with what you heard.

RALPH ABERNATHY:

I heard what sounded like ah, a firecracker. And I rushed to him. And I kneeled[SIC] down and took his head up in my hands and said, "Martin, it will be all right. It will be all right, Martin. This is Ralph. This is Ralph. Everything is going to be all right."