The Enid News and Eagle, Enid, OK

Summer of '68

July 13, 2008

Enid area residents, former residents wax reminiscent about their 1968 experiences


Hendersonville, N.C.

Navy wife saw riots after King’s death in Memphis

At 6 a.m., on April 4, 1968, I was driving to work in Memphis from our home in Munford, Tenn. I was thinking to myself how much my life had changed since we had moved to Tennessee

John was going to pharmacy school in Millington (at Naval Support Activity Mid-South), and I was working in Memphis at St. Joseph East Hospital as a nurse’s aide.

I hired a woman who came over at 5:30 every morning and took care of my baby son, Jeff, while I was at work. When I would get home in the evening, she would have the house clean and dinner on. All for $5 a day.

Living in Munford was definitely a culture shock. When I would go grocery shopping at the little store or to the bank, the African-American customers would fall out of line if I got in line in back of them. It embarrassed me, but that was how it was back then.

At 6 a.m., on April 5, 1968, I drove to the hospital. Everything had changed. When I arrived, I learned Martin Luther King Jr. had died at the hospital the previous evening. He had been shot. Some of the women I worked with were crying. It was a very sad day. I was scared. The first time in my life, I felt afraid for my own safety.

I locked my car doors as I made my way out of the city. It was chaos, buildings burning, rioting and looting. They had brought the National Guard in. There was a 7 o’clock curfew. I was scared.

Driving back home to Munford, I made up my mind I wasn’t going back (to Memphis). After I got home, I called the hospital and told them I was quitting my job.

Janice Hamilton


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Summer of '68