Memphis — On the outside, the Lorraine Motel looks much as it did that late afternoon of April 4, 1968. The sun still beats down on the second-floor balcony just outside Room 306, where the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. teased young Jesse Jackson about not wearing a tie to dinner at a minister’s house that night, and where King asked a band leader to play his favorite hymn, “Precious Lord, Take My Hand.” The major difference is the funeral wreath of red and white carnations that now hangs on the railing to mark the spot where he fell when the shot rang out.
Across Mulberry Street, 283 feet away, is the boarding-house window from which James Earl Ray, a convicted bank robber who escaped from prison, is believed to have fired the fatal round. Walk around the corner to Main Street and you can stand on the pavement where the fleeing Ray, perhaps spooked by two police cars parked nearby, dropped a bundle of items — including a high-powered hunting rifle with a scope, a transistor radio with his prison inmate number scratched on it and a six-pack of Schlitz, all bearing his fingerprints — before driving off in a flashy white Mustang.