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.