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

The year was 1965. Martin Luther was scheduled to speak at Antioch College in Yellow Springs, Ohio, the school his wife Coretta Scott King had 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. There were protests in response to a local barber who would only serve white customers. In the shadows, a young white man named Daniel Wagner was making plans to shoot King at the graduation ceremony. Wagner worked with Eloise Witte of Cincinnati to recruit a team and finalize a strategy.

At the last minute, a KKK rally in Lebanon, Ohio, 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 at Antioch College while Wagner targeted Martin Luther King, Jr. Their plans changed when Witte prioritized the KKK event over the assassination attempt. Witte spent the day in Lebanon instead of Yellow Springs, and the graduation ceremony went on without incident.

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. King was assassinated three years later in Memphis, Tennessee. May we all remember the high cost King, and many others, paid to articulate and advance the biblical principle of human equality.