Tuesday, January 19, 2021

Martin Luther King Jr. Was Assassinated 4 Days Before the 1968 Oscars: The Show Did Not Go On

Rev. Martin Luther King Jr  whose birthday we celebrate on Monday (Jan. 18), was assassinated on April 4, 1968 -- just four days before the 40th annual Academy Awards were scheduled to take place at the Santa Monica (Calif.) Civic Auditorium.


President Lyndon Johnson declared a national day of mourning for the civil rights leader on Sunday, April 7, but his funeral wouldn’t take place until Tuesday, April 9 -- the day after the Oscars.

All four of the African-American stars who were scheduled to play a key role in the ceremony -- Sidney Poitier, Diahann Carroll, Sammy Davis Jr and Louis Armstrong -- announced they were withdrawing out of respect for Dr. King. (Poitier was set to present best actress; Carroll to co-present two awards for short subjects; and Davis and Armstrong to perform nominated songs.)

The Oscars initially planned to go forward as scheduled, but it became increasingly apparent that the show simply couldn’t go on. The show was pushed back two days, to April 10, the day after the funeral. With that, these four stars agreed to appear on the show in these roles.

The Oscar telecast opened, appropriately, on a serious note. Gregory Peck, president of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences at the time, offered some sober remarks. “This has been a fateful week in the history of our nation. We join with fellow members of our profession and men of goodwill everywhere in paying our profound respects to the memory of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

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