The KKK Rally that Disrupted Plans to Assassinate MLK in Yellow Springs, OH

HE year was 1965. Martin Luther was scheduled to speak at Antioch College in Yellow Springs, Ohio, the school his wife Coretta Scott King attended. There was a plot to assassinate him while in town to speak at the event. It was called off due to a KKK rally in another Ohio town about thirty minutes away.

There was certainly racial tension leading up to King’s speaking engagement in Yellow Springs. A local barber refused to cut the hair of Black men, leading to protests described as a “chaotic demonstration.” In the shadows, a young man named Daniel Wagner was making plans to shoot King at the graduation cermony. Wagner worked with Eloise Witte of Cincinnati to iron out the details.

At the last minute, a KKK rally in Lebanon, a town about thirty minutes away from Yellow Springs, derailed the assassination attempt. Witte was to organize ten volunteers to fire upon the commencement crowd while Wagner took out King at Antioch College. Witte told Wagner that a KKK rally on the same day in Lebanon, Ohio, would keep her from her commitments in Yellow Springs. Though King was indeed killed three years later, I’m thankful for all the good work he was able to do because the Ohio attempts were foiled.

King’s commencement address contained several elements from his famous “I have a Dream” speech. You can listen to audio of King’s Antioch College commencement address here. May we all remember today the high cost King, and many others, paid to articulate and advance the biblical principle of human equality. We believe we are all created equal, not because it is self-evident, but because it is revealed and commanded by the one true and living God.