Jacqueline Smith was a tenant at the Lorraine Motel in 1968 when Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was killed by an assassin’s bullet at the Memphis motel. Smith stayed there for years even when few others would not. No one wanted to stay in Room 306 where Dr. King spent his last hours on earth. Few wanted to stay at the motel on 450 Mulberry St. at all. But not Smith. She stayed. She stayed up until the time the property was purchased by The Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Foundation in 1982. Though my details are admittedly sketchy, sources close to the museum tried to fill in some of the blanks about the property deal, Smith’s involvement in it, and her long opposition to the museum. A half block away and along the motel side of the museum, Smith sits daily at a table in a small area that occupies that corner on Mulberry Street. She’s been there for about 14 years. I spotted her after leaving the Young and Morrow Building across the street where the shot supposedly came from. The museum purchased that property in 2001 and turned it into an extension of the museum. There she sat, wearing all black and with a black scarf covering her head and part of her face. Near her table, Smith had a sign stating that the museum was built on racism, along with other such slogans. She had on her table photos of Dr. King and of the civil rights movement of the 1960s. Her website, fulfillthedream.net, was also displayed. It would be somewhat unfair to dismiss her as a flake. According to her site, and a long-time anonymous worker at the museum, Smith basically feels that millions of dollars have been wasted on the museum, money that should be put back into the community. On her site, Smith refers to the museum as a “Disney-style tourist attraction, which seems preoccupied with gaining financial success, rather than focussing on the real issues.” “All in all,” she continues, “the greatest criticism of the museum is that it dwells heavily on negativity and violence. Surely the underlying signals must portray hope and non-violence.” Some might agree with her. Others will disagree. A group of the students and their chaperone, Juliza Robledo, a parents whose child was on the trip, felt she was entitled to her opinion. They too spotted her after leave the building across the street. They wandered over to hear Ms. Smith’s side. Robledo said, “We asked her why she was doing what she was doing and she was very rude to the students. She said, ‘you have to pay to here me. You paid them, so you have to pay me.'” The employee said Smith was working at the front desk at the time of King’s visit to the Lorraine. She was a holdout as the property was attempted to be sold, the person said. According the employee, Smith was paid millions to leave, but this is not confirmed. The employee said that some of the properties surrounding the museum — once slums and now are condos, office space and apartments — are worth millions. Yet, some of the surrounding neighborhoods remain depleted of needed resources, and most residents are priced out of area, they said. “I can kind of agree with her on that,” the employee said of Smith’s stand.

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