1968 interview with MLK’s family

On the first season of 60 Minutes, Mike Wallace visited the home of Martin Luther King Jr. to speak with his family months after the assassination

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Wednesday marks 50 years since an assassin gunned down Martin Luther King Jr. in Memphis. Because 60 Minutes didn't debut until five months later, the broadcast was never able to hear from the famous civil rights leader directly.

Instead, on the broadcast's seventh episode, correspondent Mike Wallace visited King's widow and children to hear how they were doing. The interview, which aired on Christmas Eve 1968, provides insight into a family whose private grief mirrored that of an entire country.

"I would imagine that the whole nation cannot really have a happy Christmas with these two great tragedies and the other conditions of the world," said King's widow, Coretta Scott King.

Mrs. King told Wallace that, while she was still making appearances connected to her husband's work, she felt her main responsibility was to raise her four children: Yolanda, who went by Yokie; Martin Luther III, who went by Marty; Dexter; and Bernice, whose nickname was Bunny.

"I think that if we're looking for another Martin Luther King, we won't find him because he comes once in a century, maybe once in a thousand years." -Coretta Scott King

Only eight months had passed since their father's death, but the King children made an impression on Wallace, who said they were a "handsome and healthy and pretty happy-looking bunch of children."

Wallace wasn't so sure, however, about the condition of the movement King had begun.

"I think that some of us sit around sometimes and wonder if the death of Martin Luther King didn't leave the civil rights movement, for a lot of people, leaderless, rudderless," he told Mrs. King.

"I think that if we're looking for another Martin Luther King, we won't find him because he comes once in a century, maybe once in a thousand years," Mrs. King replied. "But there are many other persons now who will come forth, I believe, and assume leadership that they never assumed before, because they feel that there is this need."

With Christmas approaching, Mrs. King told Wallace that her husband's death made her reflect on the deeper meaning of the holiday. She recalled Easter 1963. King had been sent to jail in Birmingham on Good Friday and she hadn't heard from him. But, she said, in reflecting on the meaning of the holiday, she found it the most meaningful Easter she'd ever experienced. She told Wallace she was searching, this time, for the real spirit of Christmas—"the spirit of giving and giving unselfishly."

"I think if we think in terms of my husband's life and his death in those terms, then we will not be as sad," Mrs. King said. "We will be hopeful because in his death there is hope for redemption."