Back in 1968, he was known as the “news man” at KLKN talk radio in Denver. But there was one news story that Lorenzo “Larry” Hammons had a hard time sharing with his listeners.
“I couldn’t do it,” he says of the Associated Press report that came down on the breaking news wire on April 4, 1968. It was the day that Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated in Memphis, Tennessee.
“There it was: ‘Dr. Martin Luther King has been shot,’” he recalls of the breaking news bulletin. “Here comes another bulletin: ‘Dr. Martin Luther King is dead.’”
Hammons brought the bulletins to the sports radio host who was on the air at the time and asked him to read it. Then, he tried to collect himself to present his five-minute newscast.
“I went back to the newsroom, preparing for my newscast,” he said. “I don’t know if I can do it.”
Hammons, who is 79 years old, says he doesn’t ever speak of that day because it still carries so much pain for him. He remembers people who called in to the talk radio station with the same feelings.
“They were fearful this would happen sooner or later. I felt that way too,” he said. “That’s why I get emotional about it.”
But Hammons recalls that not every caller responded to King’s assassination with sadness.
“You had your people who were antagonistic (saying) ‘I’m glad he’s dead.’ This is 1968 you’re talking about,” he said.
“And then some were sympathetic,” he said. “It ran the gamut.”
Hammons says the phone lines lit up when the news came out.
“The whole country, the whole state, the whole city,” he said.
Hammons composed himself enough to share all of the breaking news with his listeners.
“I got through my newscast,” he said. “When I got off the air, I shed some tears.”
“(King) was a pioneer for civil rights. Not just for African Americans. All people,” said Hammons.
Recalling that evening clearly, Hammons says he still feels the sadness associated with King’s death.
“It’s just been a part of me for 49 years. I’ve been living with this,” he said. “Forty-nine years. That’s a long time to be hanging on to something.””