The following is a transcript of the PBS show Frontline that aired on April 30, 1996
JACQUELINE JACKSON: He called me late one evening and he said, "Jackie, Dr. King has been shot." And he said, "And I want to tell you before you get the news on the television, but he is dead." I said, "What do we do now?" He said, "I don't know, but it's a lot going on down here and I don't understand any of it. They don't want us to speak to the_ the SCLC people don't want to talk to the press until they've met and tried to restructure the group and reorganize it." And then he stopped again and he said, "Jackie, Dr. King is dead." I think he kept saying it to make himself understand it.
MARSHALL FRADY: Jackson had been standing 10 feet below King, in the courtyard of the Lorraine Motel, when the shot was fired. After the initial confusion, Jackson had made his way up to the second floor balcony where King lay dying.
ANDREW YOUNG: After they removed his body, Ralph Abernathy got a jar and started scraping up the blood and said_ you know, and crying, it was Martin's precious blood. "This blood was shed for us." It was_ you know, it was weird, but people freaked out and did strange things. Jesse put his hands in the blood and wiped it on the front of his shirt, see, and it was_ it was_ I mean, what do you do in a moment like that?
MARSHALL FRADY: Abernathy, Young and others went to the hospital. Jesse was left behind at the Lorraine, where the media began to swarm.
JESSE JACKSON: [April 4, 1968] I need to see Dr. King. Can I get a ride to see Dr. King?
REPORTER: Say, Reverend_
JESSE JACKSON: Can you excuse us, Jack?
REPORTER: Will you tell me just what happened, please?
JESSE JACKSON: Can it wait a little while?
REPORTER: Would you tell me just what happened so can get this film in, please?
CALVIN MORRIS: Jesse always senses the moment, and it was an epochal moment, and he was there.
JESSE JACKSON: The black people's leader, our Moses, the once in a 400 or 500-year leader has been taken from us by hatred and bitterness. Even as I stand at this hour, I_ I cannot even allow hate to enter my heart at this time, for it was sickness, not meanness, that killed him. People were_ some were in pandemonium, some were in shock, some were crying, hollering, "Oh, God!" And I immediately started running upstairs to where he was and I caught his head and I tried to feel his head and I asked him, I said, "Dr. King, do you hear me? Dr. King, do you hear me?" And he didn't say anything and I tried to hold his head. And by that time_
MARSHALL FRADY: While the rest of the King's aides huddled through the night at the motel, Jackson rushed back to Chicago, where rage was already sweeping the city.
JACQUELINE JACKSON: When we were going to get in the car, it was really a silence. You know, it was "Who's going to speak first?" you know, because I didn't have the words to say and he didn't know what to say. And when he came home, he got in the bed with his shoes on and the_ and the shirt and he just laid in the bed.
MARSHALL FRADY: In public Jackson had an altogether different demeanor. It was as if he could see his destiny opening up before him at last and he rushed toward it. Fourteen hours after the shooting, he appeared on the Today show. Later that day, while listening to the solemn tributes at the Chicago city council's memorial service, Jackson tapped Mayor Daley on the shoulder and asked to speak. Pointing to his shirt, Jackson said, "This blood is on the chest and hands of those who would not have welcomed King here yesterday." Then he called for calm in the city, an end to the rioting. Meanwhile, at Jackson's directive, a movement publicist was booking interviews on Chicago T.V. shows.
DON ROSE, Former Advisor, SCLC: They were falling all over themselves to get Jesse, and particularly as the word got out later that morning that Jesse had returned to Chicago and was wearing clothes stained with Dr. King's blood and was appearing before the city council and so forth.
MARSHALL FRADY: Don Rose accompanied Jackson to the tapings, the two men riding from studio to studio in the back seat of a car.
DON ROSE: He was thinking very clearly, thinking ahead, thinking of, frankly, his own career, the future of the movement and his role within it. And we were both reinforcing each other with the view that Jesse was a very logical successor to Dr. King.
JESSE JACKSON: [April 12, 1968] When I see you here, so much alive, asking what to do, where to turn_ I am available now. I am more convinced than ever that every time that there is a crucifixion in right and righteousness, that inevitably and universally there is a resurrection.
MARSHALL FRADY: King aides, long resentful of Jackson, saw his behavior as brazen opportunism. They were already angry that he had spoken to the press in the hours after the assassination and furious that he had so dramatically inflated his own part in the story of King's final moments.