Leon Bibb reports:
He has never told the story that resonates in him as loud as the gunshot he heard when Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated in Memphis April 4, 1968.
Especially on Martin Luther King Day and on the anniversary of his death, Bishop J. Delano Ellis of the Pentacostal Church of Christ in Cleveland, Ohio, reflects on what he saw as he waited for the civil rights leader to come to Ellis’ car for the drive to a restaurant.
In 1968, Bishop Ellis was the pastor of a very small congregation in Memphis. To add to his meager income from the church, he drove a taxi cab for the Friendly Cab Company, a taxi service that served the black community of Memphis.
He was the cab driver who pulled up to the Lorraine Motel to drive Martin Luther King to dinner at a popular restaurant in the black community.
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“I remember his foot was coming through the rail,” said Ellis, who then realized King had been shot.
Perhaps most shocking of all is Ellis’s report that the police on the scene beat him and others.
“It couldn’t have been much time, but the police were all over the place,” said Ellis.
Still in the parking lot, Ellis didn’t know what to do. Then he was assaulted, he said.
“It was the police beating me,” he said.
When asked if he meant “roughing you up,” he responded quickly.
“When I said they beat me, I mean they beat me,” said Ellis without hesitation. “They whipped me.”