The funeral procession for Martin Luther King Jr. passes in front of Atlanta City Hall (out of frame) near the Georgia Capitol building. The flag in front of the Capitol building is flying at half-staff over the objection of Gov. Lester Maddox. (J. C. Lee / AJC Collection at GSU Library AJCNS1968-04-09c)

Lester Maddox turned the Capitol into a fortress during MLK’s funeral

Lester Maddox, Georgia’s segregationist governor, despised Martin Luther King Jr.

He once called King “an enemy of our country” and bragged that he’d been elected despite King and the growing power of the Civil Rights Movement. So, when King was assassinated, Maddox was sparing in his public comments about King’s murder. He did not address the state live on television or radio. Instead he issued a statement saying he deplored and denounced the shooting, “as I have previously denounced the shooting that killed…law enforcement officers and innocent, law-abiding citizens in many cities of America during the recent months.”

But Maddox was certain violence would overtake Atlanta as it had Washington, Chicago and other cities across the nation after the assassination. He viewed the tens of thousands of people who poured into Atlanta to attend King’s April 9 funeral as potential threats. He was particularly concerned about them filing past the Capitol during the procession.

So, Maddox did something virtually unprecedented in the modern Capitol’s history: he turned it into a fortress, sealed from the public and guarded by nearly 200 officers. Maddox told The Atlanta Constitution that the Gold Dome would be ready once the first columns of mourners and marchers streamed by.

“If they do get out of line,” Maddox said, “it’ll be contained.”

To find out what happened once the funeral procession neared the Capitol grounds and to watch video of the moment, visit


The March 21 documentary ‘The Last Days of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’ on Channel 2 kicked off a countdown of remembrance across the combined platforms of Channel 2 and its partners, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution and WSB Radio.

The three Atlanta news sources will release comprehensive multi-platform content until April 9, the anniversary of King’s funeral.

On April 4, the 50th anniversary of Dr. King’s assassination, the three properties will devote extensive live coverage to the memorials in Atlanta, Memphis and around the country.

The project will present a living timeline in real time as it occurred on that day in 1968, right down to the time the fatal shot was fired that ended his life an hour later.

The project will culminate on April 9 with coverage of the special processional in Atlanta marking the path of Dr. King’s funeral, which was watched by the world.

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