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The Assassination of Alberta Williams King

Alberta was shot as she play "The Lord's Prayer" on the church organ

By True Crime WriterPublished 2 years ago 3 min read
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On June 30, 1974, Alberta Williams King played “The Lord’s Prayer” on the organ at Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta where her father, husband, and son all previously served as pastors. Alberta, her daughter, grandkids, and other family members faithfully attended church and read the Bible.

The King Family

Alberta’s father passed away after suffering a heart attack in 1941. Her middle son, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. had been assassinated by James Earl Ray in Memphis, TN, six years earlier. The mother of three lost her youngest son, Alfred King, an assistant pastor at the church when he drowned in the pool at his home a year after King Jr's assassination.

I’m Taking Over Here

As the congregation prayed with their eyes closed and heads down, a voice called out, “I’m taking over here.” The congregation opened their eyes to the voice and see a young Black man standing atop a pew at the front of the church. He jumped down from the pew, turned toward the choir where King played the organ about four feet away and pulled out a gun.

Mrs. King exclaimed “Oh!” as Marcus Wayne Chenault Jr. opened fire, striking her, church deacon Edward Boykin, and church member Mrs. Jimmie Mitchell. He was close enough to touch Mrs. King when he shot her, then turned and fired into the congregation. Mrs. Mitchell had been standing near Chenault when the shooting began.

Derek Barber King, the grandson of Mrs. King heard his grandmother scream as she was struck with the bullet. As she lay on the floor in pain bleeding to death, Chenault walked up to her and fired another shot.

Chaos erupted; the man escaped through the side door of the church and headed down Jackson Street. Christine King Farris, Alberta’s daughter, made her way outside of the church and to the hospital. She learned Deacon Boykin had passed away. Her mother died later that evening. Alberta was 69-years old.

All Christians are My Enemies

The 21-year-old Chenault was a Black Hebrew Israliete who said “All Christians are my enemies.” To this day, it is unclear why Chenault chose to shoot King specifically, though it is speculated that he wanted to kill several church leaders. Many experts speculate that Chenault did not like Christians, felt inadequate, and had a need for attention.

At the time of the murders, Chenault was an Ohio State University college dropout. He was a junior studying education when he dropped out. Two weeks before killing Alberta King and Deacon Boykin, Chenault told a friend he would be “all over the papers.”

As he sat in the front row at his wife’s funeral, Martin Luther King Sr., having lost two sons and now his wife, said “I cannot hate any man.”

Chenault Found Guilty

Chenault was found guilty of the two murders and sentenced to death. Psychiatrists testified during his trial that Chenault suffered from schizophrenia and was insane at the time he committed the murders.

On appeal, a judge commuted his death sentence to life in prison based on these factors. Chenault died in prison on August 19, 1995, just over two weeks after suffering a stroke in prison.

Resources & Additional Case Information:

https://kinginstitute.stanford.edu/encyclopedia/king-martin-luther-sr

https://law.justia.com/cases/georgia/supreme-court/1975/29662-1.html

https://ohiohistorycentral.org/w/Marcus_Chenault

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True Crime Writer

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