BBC man scooped the death of Martin Luther King this week 47 years ago

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April 6, 2015 by dontbringlulubook

images2DP52602Martin Luther King was shot in Memphis in the U.S. on April the 4th 1968. Journalist Gerry Priestland (twice Washington Correspondent for the BBC) had interviewed the civil rights leader two weeks before.

His interview was transmitted by satellite from the corporation’s office in Rockefeller Centre in New York that evening, under the watchful eye of Ron Onions, the first news organiser in the Manhattan for the BBC.

Ron got the news of the assassination while watching the TV in the family home on East 53rd street. He and his daughter Sarah were eating a meal and Doris, his wife and Sarah’s mother was clearing up in the galley kitchen in the apartment on the 18th floor.

As soon as Ron heard the news from the Huntley and Brinkley NBC news programme which was being broadcast, he jumped up and got on the phone to London. Sarah was looking over his shoulder and saw a still of Dr King flash up on the TV screen against a dark background.

Ron could send Gerry Priestland’s interview to London so viewers in Britain were able to watch in the next day. Gerry Priestland reading on BBC 2Gerry who launched BBC 2 later became the BBC’s Religious Correspondent. In his Book America, Face of a Changing Nationbetter Priestland pic he wrote about his reporting from the southern states of America accompanied by a cameraman.


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