5 APRIL 2008

Presidential hopefuls Hillary Clinton and John McCain took time off the campaign trail on Friday to pay tribute to Martin Luther King Jr. The politicians joined the crowds in Memphis marking the 40th anniversary of the civil rights campaigner's assassination.

Speaking at the historic Mason Temple church, where the legendary activist spoke the night before his death, Mrs Clinton told the congregation of her reaction as a young student to the news of the killing.

"I walked into my dorm room and took my book bag and hurled it across the room," the Democrat recalled, her voice full of emotion. "It felt like everything had been shattered and we'd never be able to put the pieces together again."

Republican candidate Mr McCain, meanwhile, remembered hearing the news while a prisoner-of-war in North Vietnam and feeling "uncertain and alarmed for my country".

Taking part in ceremonies at the Milton Hotel, where the assassination took place, he added that time had revealed the true strength of the murdered campaigner. "The quality of his character is only more apparent," he said. "His good name will be honoured as long as the creed of America is honoured."

Photo: © Alphapress.com
On a day of memories, Hillary Clinton visits the exhibit to bus campaigner Rosa Parks at the National Civil Rights Museum, erected inside the Lorraine Hotel where Martin Luther King Jr was killed Photo: © Getty Images
Photo: © Alphapress.com
Republican candidate John McCain greets the crowds in Memphis who gathered to remember the assassinated civil rights leader. Mr McCain recalled hearing the news of the death while a prisoner-of-war in North VietnamPhoto: © Getty Images