Martin Luther King, Jr. at the White House with Lyndon Johnson
courtesy: Library of Congress

On April 4, 1968, Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr. was shot and killed while standing on the balcony of a motel in Memphis, Tennessee.

Later, Marshall was asked about his memories of Dr. King.


Interviewer: How did Martin Luther King first come to your attention?

Marshall: The Montgomery boycott had started, and a man by the name of [E.D.] Nixon, a former Pullman porter, president of our branch in Montgomery, called me about it. And we were advising them of the legal steps to be made, and I referred the case to Bob Carter on my staff and he was handling it. We were proceeding, and all of a sudden, this preacher started jumping out of there. We'd never even heard of him before, never heard of him before. I had known his father in Atlanta, but I never heard of him until then.

Interviewer: What was your initial reaction, as you recall, to his organizing the Southern Christian Leadership Conference?

Marshall: Oh, I had no quarrel with it. And as a matter of fact, I told the young people of that group, they met with me in New York, and I told them they could do whatever they pleased. We'd back them up. We'd get them bail money, anything. They could do whatever they wanted.

I didn't agree with them. I used to have a lot of fights with Martin about his theory about disobeying the law. I didn't believe in that. I thought you did have a right to disobey the law, and you also had a right to go to jail for it. And he kept talking about Thoreau, and I told him, I said, "If I understand it, Thoreau wrote his book in jail. If you want to write a book, you go to jail and write it."

He changed it eventually. He did stay there. I think he had a great influence. He came at the right time. It's very interesting how people pop up at the right time.