The Lorraine Motel was originally built in the 1920s and purchased by Walter and Loree Bailey in 1945. Walter Bailey renamed the business after his wife, Loree, and the song “Sweet Lorraine.”
On April 4, 1968, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., who had come to Memphis to support a sanitation workers strike, stepped out on the balcony of the hotel in front of Room 306 to speak with friends. He was shot in the neck – assassinated – but he wasn’t the only one who died as a result of that bullet.
Loree Bailey, the motel’s namesake, had a stroke when she heard the shot fired and died April 9, the same day as King’s funeral (from The New Yorker). Perhaps her passing also marked the symbolic death of the Lorraine Motel, but it was later resurrected as the National Civil Rights Museum and now helps tell the story of the Civil Rights Movement in the United States from the 17th Century to present.
While this independent journalism project is not affiliated with the Memphis motel or museum, the project name was inspired by the motel’s place in history on the 50th anniversary of Dr. King’s death. Featuring interviews with more than 30 people – some who have met and worked with King – reporters asked individuals to share their memories of April 4, 1968, and their thoughts about how King’s life and death has changed America.