In March 1968, Dr. Martin Luther King went to Memphis, Tennessee, in support of striking African American sanitation workers. The workers had staged a walkout on 11 February 1968, to protest unequal wages and working conditions. At the time, the city of Memphis paid black workers significantly lower wages than whites. In addition, unlike their white counterparts, blacks received no pay if they stayed home during bad weather; consequently, most blacks were compelled to work even in driving rain and snow storms. On 3 April 1968, King returned to Memphis to address a gathering at the Mason Temple (World Headquarters of the Church of God in Christ). With a thunderstorm raging outside, King delivered the last speech of his life, now known as the "I've Been to the Mountaintop" address.
King was booked in room 306 at the Lorraine Motel in Memphis, owned by black businessman Walter Bailey (and named after his wife).
At 18:01 on Thursday, 4 April 1968, while he was standing on the motel's second floor balcony, King was struck by a single .30 bullet fired from a Remington 760 Gamemaster. The bullet travelled through the right side of his neck, smashing his throat and down his spinal cord before lodging in his shoulder.
King was rushed to St. Joseph's Hospital, where doctors opened his chest and performed manual heart massage. He was pronounced dead at 19:05. According to Taylor Branch, King's autopsy revealed that though he was only 39 years old, he had the heart of a 60 year old man