Martin Luther King Jr Hearse 1966 Cadillac Superior Royale Coach fully restored

1966 Cadillac Martin Luther King's hearse in Memphis

Make: Cadillac
Model: Martin Luther King's hearse in Memphis
Type: Hearse
Trim: Royale Superior Coach
Year: 1966
Mileage: 78,090
Color: Black on White
Engine: 429
Cylinders: 8
Fuel: Gasoline
Transmission: Automatic
Drive type: RWD
Interior color: Black and White
Vehicle Title: Clear
Item location: Alexandria, Louisiana, United States

Description for Cadillac Martin Luther King's hearse in Memphis 1966

The Lost Hearse of Martin Luther King, Jr.

1966 Cadillac Superior Royale Hearse

In 1966 the Memphis Superior Hearse Representative, Mr. Zane Smith, delivered R.S. Lewis and Sons Funeral Home their new 1966 Cadillac Superior Royale Hearse. The Lewis used the hearse in the normal course of business from that time until April 4, 1968. On that tragic day, this vehicle would become a piece of history and begin a historic journey. Early that afternoon Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. had been shot at the Lorraine Motel in Memphis, Tennessee and on that same fateful night Dr. King’s body would be entrusted to R.S. Lewis and Son’s Funeral Home in which Dr. King and the hearse would be joined in history forever. This hearse would be the exclusive transportion for Dr. King’s body while in Memphis. The hearse made its final trip transporting Dr. King’s body to the airport to an awaiting plane provided by Robert Kennedy on April 5th. After, the vehicle was placed back into normal service at R.S. Lewis and Son’s until late spring of 1969. Mr. Smith, being a major supporter and member of many African –American rights organizations including the NAACP and SCLC, did services during this time for many prominent African American and Civil Rights members. In the spring of 1969, Mr. Lewis traded the 1966 Cadillac back to Mr. Zane Smit, the Superior Coach Dealer, toward the purchase of a newer 1969 model hearse. Mr. Smith took Dr. King’s hearse and placed it in the companies warehouse, where it stayed in his care and hidden from public view for approximately 40 years.

While in negotiations to purchase Dr. King’s hearse, on October 22, 2006, Chad Alan DeRamus was tragically killed in a family plane crash. Negotiations on the purchase of the vehicle halted. 1 year later, following Thanksgiving 2007, Mr. DeRamus, Chad’s father, contacted Mr. Smith inquiring as to the whereabouts of this historic vehicle. He was shocked to hear that Mr. Smith had placed it back in storage, where it still remained even though there had been numerous other parties interested in acquiring Dr. King’s hearse. Negotiations immediately resumed and on December 1, 2007, what would have been Chad Alan DeRamus’ 30th birthday, Chad’s father, Jimmie DeRamus, purchased the hearse from Mr. Smith. This was the first step in the long journey to follow Chad’s dream of restoring it to its original beauty. The vehicle was transported to Alexandria, Louisiana and on December 2, 2007, the 3 year restoration began under the close consultation of Mr. Zane Smith, now retired from Superior Coach, who assisted by seeking out original period materials and parts that would be used to return this piece of history to as close to what it had appeared on April 4th and 5th of 1968 when it was used by R.S. Lewis and Son’s Funeral Home for all of the transportation needs of the transportation needs of Dr. Martin Luther King’s Body while in Memphis Tennessee.

The restoration was completed and on November 12, 2010, Dr. King’s 1966 Cadillac hearse was returned to the Bluff City (Memphis) to be reunited with Mr. Zane Smith, now 87 years old and Mr. R.S. Lewis, now 92 years of age, the only two men to have owner the vehicle since new. Both men had a private viewing of the hearse for the first time in 44 years at R.S. Lewis and Son’s Funeral Home on 374 Vance Ave. in Memphis, Tennessee as it was the day it was first delivered new approximately 44 years earlier. A few years later, in August of 2015, the hearse made one additional trip to Memphis, Tn. to be used in Mr Zane Smiths Military funeral at the State Veterans Cemetery.

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr’s hearse was shown for PUBLIC VIEWING for the first time at the River Front Center in Alexandria, Louisiana, Chad Alan DeRamus’ home town, on January 17, 2011. Dr. King’s birthday. Dr. King’s hearse has been permanently residing and on Exhibit at Silver Dollar Pawn and Jewelry Center 2417 Lee Street, Alexandria La. 71301 as part of their extensive Civil Rights Collectio, when not on educational tours across the country.