Events mark 50th anniversary of Martin Luther King Jr.’s assassination, Robert Kennedy’s Indy speech

INDIANAPOLIS, Ind.-- Fifty years ago, the world lost Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. On Wednesday, hundreds of Hoosiers commemorated the civil rights icon's death and the speech from Robert F. Kennedy announcing the tragedy here in Indy.

Events took place throughout the day to pay tribute to Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Hundreds gathered at Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Park where civil rights leader U.S. Rep. John Lewis and Robert Kennedy's daughter, Kerry Kennedy shared remarks.

On April 4, 1968, Kennedy was scheduled to deliver a campaign speech in Indianapolis. Instead, it became his solemn duty to inform the gathered crowd that King had been killed in Memphis, Tennessee. He urged calm and peace during a tumultuous time in U.S. history while delivering the impromptu address from the back of a flatbed truck.

"Daddy spoke from his heart," Kerry Kennedy said, noting that Lewis organized the April 4 event where Kennedy spoke on that fateful day. "He appealed to our country to end the divisions. He said what we need in the United States is not violence and lawlessness but love and a sense of compassion toward those who are suffering, whether they be white or they be black."

Lewis talked about how King's assassination affected him.

"I cried. I lost a friend. I lost a big brother. I lost a leader. If it hadn't been for Martin Luther King Jr., I don't know what would've happened to our nation," Lewis told the crowd.

He urged Americans to speak out against intolerance.

“It is very simple when you see something that is not right, something that is not fair, something that is not just, you have a moral obligation to say something, to do something you cannot be quiet.”

Lewis was presented with the Trailblazer Award at Wednesday's commemoration.

Five decades after Robert Kennedy's speech announcing Dr. King's death, Phyllis Carr found herself in the same spot, thinking back on the emotions she felt.

Phyllis Carr

“I was rather stunned and just couldn’t believe it," Carr said. "It was really very disheartening at that time.”

Standing there, 50 years after she first heard Robert Kennedy deliver the heartbreaking news, Carr continues Dr. King's legacy.

"I’m still moving forward, I’m still doing voter registration, I’m still trying to see that the hungry are fed, that our children get a good education," she said. "All those things that I was doing at that time, I’m still doing now.”

Other dignitaries attending Wednesday events included Gov. Eric Holcomb, Indianapolis Mayor Joe Hogsett, Sen. Joe Donnelly, Sen. Todd Young, Rep. Andre Carson and Rep. Susan Brooks.