Leaders & Controversies

Transcript: Source3

Reaction from world leaders to the death of King, reported in The Daily Telegraph newspaper, 6 April 1968
(Telegraph Group Limited (1968), source from The British Library)

World Leaders express sorrow

Statesmen and church leaders expressed sorrow and fear over the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King yesterday. Messages of sympathy were sent to his widow in Atlanta, Georgia from many capitals.

In Geneva U Thant, United Nations Secretary General, said the assassination was ”a dreadful thing”. He sent a message to Mrs King expressing “sympathy on the death of your illustrious husband who worked so unceasingly, and by non-violent methods, for the cause of peace”.

Sadruddin Aga Khan, United Nations High Commissioner for refugees, asked: “Who is there to replace him? It must now be feared that many of the moderates who supported King will turn to the more extreme groups”


Desegregation’s apostle

Vatican officials said that the Pope went to pray for Dr. King as soon as he learned of the assassination. The Pope hoped ”sad consequences” would not follow the death of Dr. King, who he considered “an apostle of just desegregation”.

Moscow Radio commented: “Another dark page of crime has been written in the history of the United States”. Tass, the Russian news agency reported from New York that Dr. King was a ”man of crystal purity, straight and incorruptible.”

His murder can be explained only as politically motivated. “This murder was closely connected with the domestic crisis of the United States, made more acute by the adventure of the American military in Vietnam,” said Tass.

In Bonn, the West German Parliament stood in silence as a tribute, Herr Klaus Schuets, West Berlin mayor and chairman of the Federal Upper House, said all who valued peace and human dignity were shaken by the assassination.

Paris Radio compared Dr. King’s death with the assassination of President Kennedy: “America is living a moment similar to that of Nov. 22. 1963” it declared.

M. Bosynants, Belgian Prime Minister, said the killing was “the brutal conclusion of an escalation in racial extremism.” Queen Juliana of the Netherlands sent a telegram of sympathy to Dr. King’s widow.


Sense of powerlessness

Mr. Erlander, Sweden’s Prime Minister said; “With despair, you note the fact that the man who meant so much for a peaceful solution to United States racial antagonism has fallen to an assassin.

“The feeling of being powerless, that affects many people, is now stronger, but we must hope there are other leaders in the ranks of the non-violent movement who can pick up where King ended.”

Mr. Eban, Israeli Foreign Minister, said in Jerusalem “Dr. King was an historic figure in the struggle for freedom and equality. His work will live long after him”.

In Johannesburg Mrs Helen Suzman, the multi-racial Progressive party’s only M.P. said Dr. King was “the outstanding Christian minister” of the United States.


India’s sorrow

In New Delhi, Mrs. Gandhi, India’s Prime Minister, compared Dr. King to Mahatma Gandhi. She said the assassination was “a setback to mankind’s search for light”.

Dr. Billy Graham, the American evangelist who is visiting Brisbane, said the assassination indicated ”tens of thousands of Americans are mentally deranged”. The Rte. Rev. Trevor Huddlestone, Bishop of Masasi, said in Dar-es-Salaam that the killing was “a supreme tragedy”.

In Madrid American tourists, some disbelieving, some angry, called at news agency offices for information. One said: “Hell will break loose in many States back home”.

Our Churches Correspondent writes: Dr. King represented the middle way between the older leaders of the Negro Churches in America and the younger ministers who are more sympathetic to the “Black Power” groups. Many conservatives regarded him with suspicion, believing he had Communist support”.

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