12 Sep Lorraine Motel Memphis – In Honor of Martin Luther King Jr.
The Lorraine Motel in Memphis, Tennessee has legendary status for many reasons: the most important being what happened on April 4, 1968 when Martin Luther King, Jr. stepped out of Room 306 to chat with friends in the parking lot below. Sadly, as he turned his back to walk into his room he was shot in the neck and died immediately. The rest is history and Room 306 has been preserved for eternity as a memorial to the great man who lost his life there.
Located at 450 Mulberry Street in downtown Memphis, the motel dates back to the 1920’s and operated under different names as the Windsor Hotel and the Marquette Hotel. Significant changes were made to the building by Walter and Loree Bailey who purchased the building in 1945 and added more guest rooms. They also created the Lorraine as a place where black travelers could stay and feel safe during a time period when there were few such places. Many famous musicians and sports teams stayed there and the Baileys treated them like royalty with home cooking and a friendly smile. Sadly after Dr. King was assassinated, things began to go downhill with the sudden death of Loree. By 1982 Walter Bailey declared bankruptcy and watched as the motel turned into a brothel.
I am always encouraged to learn about organizations that come to the rescue of challenged establishments. Thank goodness for the “Save the Lorraine” group that bought the motel and turned it into a museum. Dr. King’s room has been preserved exactly as he left it with his unmade bed and dirty dishes left on the table. In 1991 it was turned into the National Civil Rights Museum where visitors can learn about the civil rights movement along with getting a feel for the time period which includes the 1959 Dodge Royal and the 1968 Cadillac parked out front.
I am very grateful to my friend Linda Corradina for sharing her pictures of the Lorraine Motel with me that inspired this painting.