Each January, media, and schools across America rehash the life and murder of Martin Luther King Jr. while entirely omitting any mention of the targeted murder of his mother, Alberta Williams King.
On June 30th, 1974, Marcus Wayne Chenault, then 23, attended the famous Ebenezer Baptist Church armed with two handguns.
He shot and killed Alberta King as she played the piano. He also shot and killed Edward Boykin, a deacon of the church. Retired school teacher Jimmie Mitchell was shot in the neck and seriously injured.
Marcus Wayne Chenault was a follower of the “Black Hebrew Israelite” ideology and referred to himself as “Servant Jacob.” He lived in Columbus, Ohio, and had been a follower of Black Hebrew Israelite leader Hananiah Israel of Cincinnati.
Columbus police found a list of ten Black Civil Rights leaders in Chenault’s apartment that he wanted to murder. At the top of the list was Jesse Jackson. Chenault is believed to have originally planned to travel to Chicago and try to kill Jackson but changed his mind at the last minute. Instead, deciding to go to Atlanta to target MLK’s father, Martin Luther King Sr.
Chenault would later say that he shot Alberta instead of Martin simply because Alberta was more exposed. He said hitting Martin would have been more challenging, so he changed targets. When Chenault opened fire, he yelled, “you are serving a false God.”
After his attack at Ebenezer Church, Chenault declared that “all Christians are my enemies.” Chenault viewed MLK’s parents, Jesse Jackson, and other Black leaders as gatekeepers holding Black Americans back from their true potential.
Chenault was sentenced to the death penalty but never executed, in part because the King family opposed the death penalty. He died of a stroke in prison at age 44 on August 19, 1995. Chenault, who was barely five feet tall, was also an Ohio State University dropout.
The Civil Rights Division of the US Justice Department and the Altana, Dayton, and Columbus police departments searched for a larger conspiracy. None was ever found, and it was determined that Chenault acted alone.