MEMPHIS, Tenn. (AP) — The Rev. Samuel Billy Kyles, a longtime civil rights leader who was present when Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated, has died in Memphis. He was 81.
Erica Cunningham, an administrative assistant at Monumental Baptist Church, where Kyles was a pastor for decades, said he died Tuesday at a hospital. An official cause of death was not immediately released, but Cunningham said he had been living with dementia.
King had come to Memphis in 1968 to help striking sanitation workers. At about 6 p.m. on the night of April 4, King, Kyles and others prepared to leave the Lorraine Motel to go to dinner.
As they stood on a balcony, a shot rang out, striking King. Kyles later told The Associated Press in 2008, "blood was everywhere."