The Time Martin Luther King, Jr. Almost Died

In 1958, Martin Luther King, Jr. was signing books at a store in Harlem when a woman stabbed him in the chest with a letter opener. The sharp instrument went through his sternum and came close to severing his aorta. But King pulled through, in large part thanks to two pairs of professionals: a team of policemen, one black and one white, and a team of two surgeons, one back and one white.

The cops were Al Howard and Phil Romano. They had been in a radio car near the end of their tour at 3:30 pm on September 20 of that year when they received a report of a disturbance in Blumstein’s Department store. They arrived to see the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King sitting in a chair beside a stack of his new book, Stride Toward Freedom: The Montgomery Story that he had come to sign. An ivory handled letter opener protruded from his chest.

"We have to do something!" a panicked onlooker screamed.

The onlooker reached to pull out the letter opener. King almost certainly would have died right there and then if the cops had not stopped her. The cops rightly sensed the precariousness of the situation.

“Don’t sneeze,” Howard was heard to tell King. “Don’t even speak.”

Howard and Romano decided to leave King in the chair and carry him in it ever so gingerly down the stairs and out of the store. An ambulance took King to Harlem Hospital, which had been alerted and was notifying its top team of trauma surgeons, Dr. John W. V. Cordice, Jr. and Dr. Emil Naclerio.

None of the four men received the credit they should have for saving King's life, but you can read the story at The Daily Beast. -via Digg

(Image credit: John Lent)

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