Chicagoans involved in civil rights movement remember Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

CHICAGO (WLS) -- Bernard Kleina photographed the civil rights movement, but he was a Chicago priest first.

Kleina said he was swept up in the movement after watching marchers on television as they crossed the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, Alabama in 1965.

"So I did go down to Selma," Kleina said. "I'm not sure what I could do when I got down there, but I felt I just couldn't not do anything."

Not long after Kleina returned to Chicago, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. arrived in the city to push for open housing and an end to slums. Kleina grabbed his camera to document the movement, but admitted that he had a lot to learn at the time.

"It didn't even occur to me to shoot in black and white, so it's kind of ignorance is bliss," Kleina said.

Color photographs of King are rare.

It's easy to make out details of King's facial expressions in Kleina's photographs because Kleina was always just feet away.

Kleina's photographs are frequently displayed and tend to generate strong reactions.

"I do hear from younger people that they can relate more to color images, because they look like they could have been taken yesterday," Kleina said.

Kleina said the time spent photographing King made him realize how naive he was. Because the marches Kleina attended often turned violent, he never had an opportunity to formally introduce himself to King.

"But I thought there will be another time I can do that, and it came all too soon," Kleina said.

Today, Kleina remains an advocate for fair housing policies. He will discuss his advocacy and exhibit his photographs in Dayton, Ohio on Wednesday.

Sanitation worker who marched with King remembers day of assassination

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A Memphis sanitation worker who marched with Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. in 1968 remembers the day of King's assassination.

James Riley calls Chicago home, but he was living in Memphis when Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was assassinated in 1968.

Riley marched with King in the 1968 Sanitation Worker's Strike.

"He was such a nice person, personality wise and speech writer. He always had a smile on his face," Riley said of King. "You never saw him frown regardless of what, he didn't talk down on nobody. One thing when he said nonviolent he meant nonviolent."

Riley moved from Money, Mississippi to Memphis for a chance at a job working for the city.

The well-paying city job Riley landed was supposed to be a dream, but turned out to be a nightmare with terrible, dirty working conditions. When two sanitation workers died, the decision was made to strike in an effort to unionize.

King came to Memphis to aid in the fight.

"The first time he came to Memphis, I met him and then after that, I don't know why, but it looked like they trusted me more than anybody," Riley said. "I was always kind of close to him at the time."

King's time in Memphis was cut short when he was killed on April 4, 1968.

"I was at Clayborn Temple and somebody called down there and said that King had been shot," Riley said. "King's body was laying on the floor and people were pointing at the building, saying 'the shot came from over there.' They hadn't even moved his him."

Riley said he could tell immediately that King was dead.

"It was hurting it was really hurting. I shed a quite a few tears behind that, because you know that man hadn't done nothing to nobody, and all he did was try to help people and you're going to kill him for what?" Riley said. "And I have always asked myself, 'why?'."

Just weeks after the tragedy came the first contract for workers' rights. Riley said that was that was the beginning of some great change, but more still needs to be done.

Memorial events held in Memphis to mark 50th anniversary of King's assassination

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ABC7 Chicago's Ravi Baichwal reports live from Memphis as remembrances of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. begin.

Crowds gathered Monday outside the Lorraine Motel in Memphis ahead of the 50th anniversary of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.'s assassination.

King was assassinated on the balcony of room 306 at the motel on April 4, 1968. The Lorraine Motel has since become the National Civil Rights Museum.

On Monday, a new exhibit, MLK50, opened at the museum to showcase King's accomplishments during his lifetime and his influence after his death.

Eric Holder, the first African-American U.S. Attorney General, toured the exhibit Monday.

"Because we are in the presence of who I call, small groups of men and women, the second founding fathers...these men and women remade the nation," Holder said.

Holder met with Carolyn Payne, the sister of the youngest person killed during the 1968 Memphis Sanitation Worker's Strike on March 28. Payne was 14 when her brother was killed by Memphis police.

The participants of the Sanitation Workers Strike were commemorated by musical performances Monday night. A series of concerts, speeches and spoken word performances are scheduled in honor of King's memory throughout the week.
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