A pillow fight and a bullet

TENNESSEE, UNITED STATES - APRIL 04:  Civil rights leader Andrew Young (L) and others standing on balcony of Lorraine motel pointing in direction of assailant after assassination of civil rights leader Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., who is lying at their feet.  (Photo by Joseph Louw/The LIFE Images Collection/Getty Images)

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TENNESSEE, UNITED STATES - APRIL 04: Civil rights leader Andrew Young (L) and others standing on balcony of Lorraine motel pointing in direction of assailant after assassination of civil rights leader Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., who is lying at their feet. (Photo by Joseph Louw/The LIFE Images Collection/Getty Images)

Voices of King podcast series continues with Andrew Young

Andrew Young was still recovering from the pillow fight.

In the early evening hours of April 4, Young walked into Martin Luther King Jr.’s room at the Lorraine Motel.

Young, one of King’s key lieutenants had spent all day testifying in federal court to get a restraining order lifted on the march in support of Memphis sanitation workers, who had been on strike since early February.

When he walked in the door, King mocked agitation and demanded to know where Young had been all day.

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Young, seen here in 2008, was with Martin Luther King Jr on April 4, 1968. Moments before King was killed, he instigated a playful pillow fight with Young. (Pouya Dianat / AJC file)

Credit: AJC

Young, seen here in 2008, was with Martin Luther King Jr on April 4, 1968. Moments before King was killed, he instigated a playful pillow fight with Young. (Pouya Dianat / AJC file)

Credit: AJC

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Young, seen here in 2008, was with Martin Luther King Jr on April 4, 1968. Moments before King was killed, he instigated a playful pillow fight with Young. (Pouya Dianat / AJC file)

Credit: AJC

Credit: AJC

Young told him that he was “on the witness stand trying to get you the right to march and keep you out of jail.”

King threw a pillow at Young.

Young threw it back, before he was attacked by King and Ralph David Abernathy.

Martin Luther King Jr. responded, “‘Oh, you’re getting smart with me’ and he picked up a pillow and threw it at me,” Young said.

The Voices of King: Andrew Young

“He was in a more playful mood than I had seen him in years, I mean, acting like a child,” Young said. “I threw the pillow back and then everybody else picked up pillows and started beating me up. It was like a bunch of 12-year-olds.”

Less than an hour later, King would be dead. Struck down by an assassin’s bullet on the balcony outside of his room.

In this 2008 interview with The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, to mark what was then the 40th anniversary of King’s death, Young sat down to talk about King’s last hours and his influence.

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In 1961, Young joined the Atlanta-based Southern Christian Leadership Conference, where he quickly became one of Martin Luther King Jr.'s top lieutenants. Young organized leadership workshops and voter registration drives, becoming the SCLC's executive director in 1964. This photo is from a 1967 press conference. (Bob Dendy / AJC Archive at GSU Library AJCN160-097f)

Credit: Bob Dendy

In 1961, Young joined the Atlanta-based Southern Christian Leadership Conference, where he quickly became one of Martin Luther King Jr.'s top lieutenants. Young organized leadership workshops and voter registration drives, becoming the SCLC's executive director in 1964. This photo is from a 1967 press conference. (Bob Dendy / AJC Archive at GSU Library AJCN160-097f)

Credit: Bob Dendy

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In 1961, Young joined the Atlanta-based Southern Christian Leadership Conference, where he quickly became one of Martin Luther King Jr.'s top lieutenants. Young organized leadership workshops and voter registration drives, becoming the SCLC's executive director in 1964. This photo is from a 1967 press conference. (Bob Dendy / AJC Archive at GSU Library AJCN160-097f)

Credit: Bob Dendy

Credit: Bob Dendy

Part of a project marking the then 40th anniversary of King’s death, Young was one of 13 people that The AJC sat down with to record their stories about the civil rights leader’s last days. We are re-releasing these interviews as a 13-part podcast hosted by Multimedia Journalist Ryon Horne.

Along with Young, Earl Caldwell, Tyrone Brooks, Christine King Farris, Martin Luther King III, Xernona Clayton and Bernice King, and those who have left us — including Billy Kyles, Juanita Abernathy, Ralph David Abernathy III, the Rev. Joseph Lowery, Congressman John Lewis, Kathryn Johnson — each gives us a glimpse, through their relationships with King, inside the making of history.

Each episode will be made available through the Unapologetically ATL newsletter, but you can also subscribe to “The Voices of King” on Spotify, Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, Amazon Music, Stitcher or wherever you get your podcasts so you never miss an episode.