The Lorraine Motel, Honoring MLK While Social Distancing In Memphis

The Lorraine Motel is one of those extremely historical places I’ve always wanted to visit. We made sure to stop in Memphis and visit for a day while on a road trip. Neither one of us had ever spent time there and we were both curious to see it. Even though almost everything was closed because of COVID-19 we still had a good time. Of course, we respect social distancing rules and mainly just stayed outside except when in our hotel room.

Having spent most of my life in California and Texas, I haven’t had the opportunity to visit well known historical Civil Rights sites. While in Memphis I wanted to seize the opportunity and visit the Civil Rights Museum which was unfortunately closed. Attached to the museum is the Lorraine Motel where Martin Luther King Jr. was tragically assassinated. He was standing in front of room 306, the room he had spent the night before in. He was speaking to a crowd when a racist coward shot him.

Andrea and I felt a little sad when we reflected on his untimely and unjust death. We also felt immense gratitude for his heroic contributions to making the United States a much better place. Though African Americans still face racism today, we stand up strongly against it and white supremacy.

Lorraine Motel History

The Lorraine Motel’s history started long before MLK’s assassination. It was built in 1925 and in 1945, Walter Bailey bought it and renamed it after his wife Loree and the song “Sweet Lorraine”.

In the 1960s Bailey operated the motel as upscale lodging that catered to a black clientele. Among its guests through the 1960s were legendary musicians who included Ray Charles, Lionel Hampton, Aretha Franklin, Otis Redding, the Staple Singers, and Wilson Pickett.

Martin Luther King, Jr., was shot at approximately 6:01 p.m. on April 4, 1968, a day after delivering his famous “I’ve Been to the Mountaintop” speech. Following the assassination of King, Bailey withdrew Room 306 (where King died) and the adjoining room 307 from use. He instead maintained them as a memorial to the activist leader. 

After spending time at the Lorraine Motel we drove around Memphis’s empty streets and stopped for a couple of photo opportunities. We really liked how down to earth the city felt. Naturally, while there we had to try Memphis’s famous BBQ from Central BBQ. We definitely want to go back during the Memphis In May Festival which holds the famous World Championship Barbecue Cooking Contest.

Madison Ave, Memphis, TN
Barbershop mural in Memphis, Tennessee
Central BBQ – Downtown Memphis, TN

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