April 4 marks the 50th anniversary of Dr. Martin Luther King’s assassination. The event still impacts today’s society and lives on in the memories of those who experienced King’s death one way or another.
Theology teacher Mr. Ken Jensen was 20 years old when King was assassinated. He said, “I remember watching the news on TV and thinking, oh my gosh, now what’s going to happen. We already had racial tension, and now you shot the major voice.”
According to Jensen, the communities he lived in during his early life were not racially diverse, so he never experienced racial tension before King was assassinated. Jensen was busy with his life as a seminarian and a recently engaged man, so the news of King’s death did not significantly alter his life, at least in a personal and direct way.
“For the most part it was something on the TV on the radio, not a part of my world at all,” he said. “I was aware of it, but it might as well have been some other part of the world. I was not very connected to the experience. It wasn’t really until much later in life that I began to actually seriously read all the things that Martin Luther King Jr. had said. I began to realize that this guy was actually really amazing, a pretty saintly guy.”
Even though Jensen did not feel directly affected by King’s death at the time that it happened, he said that the event still had an impact on him. “I was just kind of stunned that this had happened,” he said.
Jensen also recalled that King’s death was surrounded by other assassinations, including President John F. Kennedy in 1963 and Senator Robert Kennedy, two months after King was shot and killed in Memphis, Tennessee. Jensen said that the accumulating high-profile body count made him begin to think that “I guess everybody who believes in anything could get killed in this particular world.”
As a theology teacher, Jensen holds King in high regards from a religious perspective. He said, “I think that if he was a Catholic, he would be a saint. He gave his life for something completely spiritual in a Christ-like kind of way.”