Manhattan Martin Luther King Jr. carried a bit of Kansas State University with him when he was assassinated on April 4, 1968, in Memphis, Tenn.
A paper in King’s coat pocket contained the names of four men involved in a speech he gave at the Manhattan school on Jan. 19 that year.
Now the school’s associate provost of diversity, Maya Gordon, wants to look into obtaining the paper.
“This piece of paper in the coat pocket of Dr. King, with the names of all these K-State people in it, means that we were on the balcony of Room 306,” Gordon said, referring to the location at the Lorraine Motel in Memphis where King was killed. “K-State was there.”
The connection to Kansas State came to the school’s attention after a graduate noticed a story about three King documents that singer and activist Harry Belafonte was attempting to sell through the auction house Sotheby’s.
Listed in King’s handwriting on one of the documents were the names of then-Kansas State president James McCain; William Boyer, a political science professor; Homer Floyd, executive director of the Kansas Human Relations Commission; and George Haley, a state senator.
Boyer brought King to the university from Kansas City, while the other three men joined him on the stage.
Obtaining the paper wouldn’t be easy. King’s family previously challenged Belafonte’s right to sell the documents, and he withdrew them in December 2008 from Sotheby’s.
Gordon said she hopes the recent discovery will highlight Kansas’ involvement in the broader movement spearheaded by King.
“If we can’t obtain the documents,” Gordon said, “what I would like to do is get the best possible facsimile of it.”