ATLANTA — One of the people closest to Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and his family is reminiscing on his life and legacy as we prepare for the 50th anniversary of Dr. King’s assassination.
Xernona Clayton -- who was one of the last people to see Dr. King alive in Atlanta -- recently sat down with Channel 2's Dave Huddleston and talked about her relationship with Dr. King and his family.
“I do believe there was something very special about this man,” Clayton told Huddleston.
According to Clayton, she drove Dr. King to the airport on April 3 when he left for his trip to Memphis. But when she first got to his house, King’s sons didn’t want him to go.
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“The boys grabbed his briefcase and said, ‘Daddy, don’t go!’ and they were holding onto his briefcase,” Clayton said.
Clayton said the boys had never done that before.
“He said, ‘I’ll be right back. I’m just going to lead a march and I’ll be right back,’” Clayton said. “He got in the car and when I got in, they jumped on the hood of my car, pleading.”
Clayton said Dr. King was upset and planned to make changes when he returned from Memphis.
“He said, ‘I’m going to spend more time with them because they are letting me know I’m not spending enough time with them,’” Clayton said.
But Dr. King never returned home.
Clayton said when she first heard Dr. King had been shot, she didn’t believe it.
“It didn’t seem real to me,” she said.
Clayton said it began to sink in when she rushed to the King’s house. She watched the kids while Coretta left for Memphis.
“It was the longest night you ever wanted to experience,” Clayton said.
Clayton said she spent months with the King family helping in any way she could.
Huddleston asked how difficult it was to do so much and mourn Dr. King’s death at the same time.
“I realized I never have,” she said. “There was so much happening and so much to do. So I never really have. I never really grieved.”
After Dr. King’s death, Clayton continued to work for Coretta King, then Turner Broadcasting. She has a downtown Atlanta street named in her honor.
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