NewsLocal News


Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.'s hearse has Tallahassee connection

A piece of American history was hiding right here in the Capital City.
Posted at 1:59 PM, Feb 22, 2019
and last updated 2019-02-22 14:01:57-05

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (WTXL) — A piece of American history was hiding right here in the Capital City.

The hearse used during Dr. Martin Luther King Junior's funeral has a special connection to Tallahassee.

It's an interesting and odd connection.

The car responsible for civil rights legend Dr. Martin Luther King Jr's final ride spent time here in Tallahassee

April 4, 1968, is a day that rocked the nation.

Henry Steele is a civil rights activist who recalls the day.

"I was very much stricken like everybody else," he said.

Steele was teaching his class that day when a friend burst into the room.

"He had heard about it and ran upstairs to my class almost on his knees telling me they got him," Steele said.

King, the man that both Steele and his father C.K. had marched beside in the fight for civil rights, had just been assassinated.

"We had always been involved in the civil rights movement," Steele said. "It was a dark cloud, especially for those groups that were organized around King."

On April 4th, following the assassination, King's body was taken from a Memphis hospital to a local funeral home, where his widow, Coretta Scott King, received the body.

Following a small viewing and service in Memphis and Dr. King's body returning to Atlanta for the final burial, the hearse was put in storage following the funeral in 1968, before a Louisiana family bought it as a restoration project in 2007.

The DeRamus family put it on display in their shop before ultimately selling it to someone here in Tallahassee.

The anonymous owner locked the hearse away for a second time.

A couple of years later, a third party seller listed the asking price at $2.5 million.

Devoe Moore is the Tallahassee Automobile Museum owner

"It just depends on how bad somebody wants it and how much they'll pay for it," he said.

Moore knows what it feels like to own a famous hearse.

"It's a piece of history," Moore said. "The name Abraham Lincoln carries a lot of history and a lot of weight."

Right here in Tallahassee, one of the coaches that carried the 16th president of United States to his final resting place sits among classic cars like one of the first models ever built.

But what makes someone want to own something with such an eerie past?

"It's a piece of history that a person should be proud to have," Moore said.

The MLK hearse is now on display in Baton Rogue, Louisiana, but will move to a new museum yearly.

Maybe one day it will even return to the Capital City.