Ball State's role in history; King, Kennedy 50 years later
Hours before the assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr., a campaign rally by Robert F. Kennedy took place at Ball State on April 4, 1968.
Kennedy, the democratic presidential candidate at the time, spoke to students and Muncie community members in Irving Gymnasium, formerly known as Men’s Gym. His 20-minute speech focused on topics including domestic issues and international problems relating to the Vietnam War.
“Kennedy was one of the most well-known political figures at that time," said history professor Bruce Geelhoed.
“This was such an important moment in history because we had a presidential candidate on campus. That doesn’t happen every presidential campaign. Other than Obama, who came in 2008, the only other presidential candidate to come to Muncie was Eugene McCarthy."
After his speech, Kennedy departed by plane from the Muncie airport for a planned campaign stop in Indianapolis. As his plane was landing, he was informed that King was assassinated in Memphis, Tennessee.
Kennedy shared the news of King's death shortly after 9 p.m. in a park at 17th and Broadway streets on the northside of Indianapolis. Many in the crowd had not heard about the assassination.
What was originally planned to be a campaign speech turned into an impromptu address acknowledging anger and sadness with a call for peace.
“We can move in that direction as a country, in greater polarization — black people amongst blacks, and white amongst whites, filled with hatred toward one another,” Kennedy said from the flatbed of a truck. “Or we can make an effort, as Martin Luther King did, to understand, and to comprehend, and replace that violence, that stain of bloodshed that has spread across our land, with an effort to understand, compassion, and love.”
Geelhoed, who was a college sophomore at the time, said Kennedy was revolutionary in the way he spoke to the nation.
“He took a lot of tension out of the environment,” Geelhoed said. “Kennedy was creating a voice of reason in a time of chaos. He appealed to people’s reasoning at a time when nothing was reasonable, which was a bold step forward.”
King was a noted civil rights leader, an advocate for social justice and a Nobel Peace Prize winner. He was killed after traveling to Memphis to support a workers strike and lead a peaceful march.
King was only 25 when he helped organize the Montgomery Bus Boycott, and soon after, he organized African Americans across the country in support of voting rights, desegregation and other basic civil rights. He also advocated for the poor and spoke out against racial and economic injustices. In doing so, King maintained nonviolent and peaceful tactics — even when there were threats to his life.
From April 1968 onward, The Daily News covered the events leading up to and including Kennedy's visit to Muncie and what happened in the aftermath of King's death.
As the National Basketball Association (NBA) begins its 75th regular season Oct. 19, our sports staff gave our predictions for this season. Each staff member predicted conference standings, player awards and the two teams who will represent each conference in the 2022 NBA Finals.