MLK At Lorraine

by Camellia Staab January. 20, 2020 465 views

Today being the day that Martin Luther King's birthday is observed, I thought it fitting to post some pictures of Lorraine Hotel. Initially the hotel had sixteen rooms and stood just east of the Mississippi River. It was first named the Windsor Hotel, and later the Marquette Hotel. Then, in 1945, Walter and Loree Bailey bought it and named it after Loree, as well as the popular song “Sweet Lorraine,” which artists including Rudy Vallée, Teddy Wilson, and Nat King Cole had recorded. The couple expanded the hotel by adding more guest rooms and drive-up access, transforming it into a motel.

Under the Baileys’ ownership, the Lorraine Motel became a safe haven for black travelers and visitors to Memphis. Given the motel’s proximity to Beale Street and Stax Records, black songwriters and musicians would stay at the Lorraine while they were recording in Memphis.

Martin Luther King, Jr., was the Lorraine Motel’s most famous guest. He stayed at the motel numerous times while visiting the city, and again in the spring of 1968, when he came to Memphis to support a strike by sanitation workers.

On April 4, 1968, he stepped out of Room 306 and talked to friends in the parking lot below.

White 1959 Dodge Royal with lime green fins parked under room 306's door

White 1959 Dodge Royal with lime green fins parked under room 306's door

As King turned to walk back into his room, a bullet struck him in the neck, taking his life instantly. Loree Bailey suffered a stroke when she heard the shot fired. She died on April 9th, the same day as King’s funeral. Walter Bailey continued to run the motel, but he never rented Room 306 again.

A large white wreath hangs on the balcony outside Room 306, to memorialize the spot where King stood at the time of the assassination.

A large white wreath hangs on the balcony outside Room 306, to memorialize the spot where King stood at the time of the assassination.

In 1982, Walter Bailey declared bankruptcy and stood by helplessly as his high-end establishment became a brothel. The Lorraine would have been sold at auction, but the Save the Lorraine organization bought it and decided to transform it into a museum.

The hotel is now the home of the National Civil Rights Museum. Filled with artifacts, films, oral histories, and interactive media, the exhibits guide visitors through five centuries of history, from slave resistance to the numerous protests of the American civil-rights movement.

Martin Luther King's room has been preserved to capture exactly what it looked like on that tragic night. There are two beds. (King was sharing the room with Dr. Ralph Abernathy, a friend.) King’s bed was not fully made because he was not feeling well and had been lying down. Dishes left in the room were from the kitchen where Loree Bailey prepared food for the motel’s guests.

Room 306

Room 306

Room 307 was taken out of service as a memorial to the activist leader.

Room 307 was taken out of service as a memorial to the activist leader.

(source)

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Jasmine Olsen 10 months, 1 week ago

Very informative! Thank you!

10 months, 1 week ago Edited
Camellia Staab Replied to Jasmine Olsen 10 months, 1 week ago

You are welcome Jasmine. I am so far behind in posting my photos, that I am playing catch up. So a little from Memphis, a little from Australia, a little from everyday life, and maybe by the end of winter I will be all caught up :)

10 months, 1 week ago Edited
Buster Bruce 10 months, 1 week ago

Very comprehensive posting Camellia. My son and daughter live in Memphis and I visit them often. Ive only driven by this memorial but one day I will spend some time. Thanks for the most interesting photos

10 months, 1 week ago Edited
Camellia Staab Replied to Buster Bruce 10 months, 1 week ago

Well worth your time. Include the museum across this hotel as well. Sort of eerie to look out the window that the shooter stood at to shoot.

10 months, 1 week ago Edited
Lynn F Medley 10 months, 1 week ago

Amazing documentary! Thank you!

10 months, 1 week ago Edited
Camellia Staab Replied to Lynn F Medley 10 months, 1 week ago

Thank you Lynn smile

10 months, 1 week ago Edited
Benny Law 10 months, 1 week ago

Great documentary post, Camellia. I feel like I have visited the museum now.

10 months, 1 week ago Edited
Camellia Staab Replied to Benny Law 10 months, 1 week ago

Thank you Benny. I've only touched at tad of what it offers. It's a must see if you are ever in Memphis.

10 months, 1 week ago Edited
Antonio Gil 10 months, 1 week ago

Thank you so much for sharing this important piece of History. And I also love the pictures

10 months, 1 week ago Edited
Camellia Staab Replied to Antonio Gil 10 months, 1 week ago

Thank you Anotnio. I took a two and half hour self tour and shrank it into 30 pictures, didn't really do the museum justice....but it's a taste smile

10 months, 1 week ago Edited
Greg Blaney 10 months, 1 week ago

This is a very interesting post, Camellia. Martin Luther Kings' impact wasn't felt the same way here in Canada, but it was still significant. I knew there was a museum in the motel where he was killed but that was about it. Your images (which are excellent, btw) and commentary are very telling and really illustrate the feelings of the time. Very well done - thank-you.

10 months, 1 week ago Edited
Camellia Staab Replied to Greg Blaney 10 months, 1 week ago

Thank you Greg, I am happy you liked the post smile

10 months, 1 week ago Edited
Jay Boggess 10 months, 1 week ago

Amazing tour! Nice work! Fascinating glimpse of our tumultuous past....

10 months, 1 week ago Edited
Camellia Staab Replied to Jay Boggess 10 months, 1 week ago

Fascinating indeed and I only showed a little portion of what the museum has to offer. If you ever get to Memphis, it is definitely worth your time smile

10 months, 1 week ago Edited
Jay Boggess Replied to Camellia Staab 10 months, 1 week ago

Next time I'm thru there, I'll definitely+1 do just that!!!

10 months, 1 week ago Edited
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