Witnesses to Martin Luther King Jr.'s Assassination Recall His Death, 50 Years Later

Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated on April 4, 1968.

This week marks 50 years since of the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr. and those who closest to the tragedy are recalling the terrible day.

"Pow! A bullet," recalled the Rev. Jesse Jackson, pointing to the right side of his own face, about the moment a shot rang out as he and others stood with King on the balcony of Memphis's Lorraine Motel.

It was 6:01 p.m. on April 4, 1968. College student Clara Ester, who marched along with protesters that day, had gone to the motel for dinner when she saw King and heard the shot.

His eyes were open, "almost a pleasant expression on his face," she told The Associated Press. Ester says she was haunted by the image so deeply that she left her hometown.

When King was rushed to St. Joseph's Hospital, college student and surgical assistant John Billings was ordered to stay with King's body until someone could come get him.

"I walked over, pulled the sheet back, and there he was," said Billings, who would switch careers to become a private investigator and later go on to meet King's assassin, James Earl Ray.

The Rev. Jesse Jackson would go on to run for president. While he lost, he was among those who wept as cameras at Chicago's Grant Park rolled following Obama's historic 2008 win.

But despite the many victories amassed for King's cause following his death, Jackson will never fully shake the events of April 1968.

"I'm pained tonight because every time I come to Memphis and visit the balcony and pull the scab back, the pain is still there," Jackson said in an Easter sermon Sunday. "Dr. King will forever be 39."