Morristown, Tennessee: Fifty years ago, Clara Ester was a junior in college in Memphis. It was late afternoon on a lovely April day. Clara had arrived at the Lorraine Motel to join others for a catfish dinner, when she heard a loud noise. When she turned her head toward the noise, she saw Dr. King fall. Instinctively, she ran forward and up the stairs.
Clara Ester, one of the few eyewitnesses to the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., will be the keynote speaker at the 2019 Annual Community Breakfast in honor of Dr. King on Monday, January 21st at First United Methodist Church in Morristown.
It happened fifty years ago. We have seen the grainy, black and white news stories and watched the documentaries. But how many of us have heard from an eyewitness, who, saw what she saw on that day, in that place, and who has had fifty years to reflect on what happened and its impact not only on her, but on the world.
“He had the most peaceful look on his face,” Ms. Ester told Lester Holt in a 2018 CNN interview.
“What was going through your mind as looked at him?” asked Mr. Holt.
“The only thing I could hear over and over were the words he had said the night before in his speech to the garbage workers.” Ms. Ester responded. “I was in that audience and I heard him say, ‘I have been to the mountaintop. I may not get there with you…’ That’s what was going through my head: I may not get there with you. I may not get there with you.”
The Chair of Morristown’s Task Force on Diversity, Dr. Alpha Alexander, said, “We are so very fortunate to have Ms. Ester with us. She has a history and perspective that is unique. This very day, we are talking about security at our Southwestern border in terms of adding law enforcement personnel, more cameras, and drones. We are in a state of heightened tension. That same sense of tension that was present in Memphis is being felt today.”
This is the ninth year of the Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Community Breakfast. In addition to the presence of Ms. Ester, there are Community Awards to be presented. The local newspaper, the Citizen-Tribune and the Hamblen County School System partner in sponsoring an essay contest open to all students in Hamblen County. There are four categories of essays, K-2nd grade, 3rd through 5th grade, Middle and High School. The winner in each category is awarded $100. Descriptions of these awards may be found on the MTFD website at morristown-diversity.org.
In addition to speeches and awards, a choir of 55 students under the direction of Brandon Moore will sing as will Morristown native, Yolanda Treece.
Breakfast is being catered by Little City Catering. The breakfast buffet opens at 7am. The program begins promptly at 7:30am. Tickets are $20 per adult; $10 per student and $10 per Veteran.
Tickets may be purchased in advance by calling Walters State Community College at 423-585-6806 or by calling the Rose Center at 423-581-4330. If available, tickets may also be purchased at the door.
First United Methodist Church is located at 101 East First North Street, Morristown, TN 37814. The parking entrance is behind the church on E. 2nd North Street.
‘Lots of things can bring a community together,” said Dr. Alexander. “We can gather around a local celebration or a popular sports event, to help our neighbors when disaster hits. This brings us together for another reason. That is to remember that overcoming division and ill will requires the kind of open heart that Dr. King described this way: to look upon one another based ‘not upon the color of one’s skin, but on the content of his character.’ ”
In the nine years of this breakfast, over 1350 people have gathered in support and commitment to that ideal.