FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. – Days before Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s death, the civil rights activist spent time in Bimini, Bahamas.
It was there where he would write his final speech.
During the visit, the words of a legendary fisherman had an impact on King.
In Bimini, Ansil Saunders is a bonefishing legend and now, a retired fishing guide whose most famous client was Dr. King. Saunders was recently in Fort Lauderdale, receiving an honor from the International Game Fish Association.
“He told me, ‘You know, Ansil, I don’t think I’ll make 40 years old’ and he died at 39. It was a rich life, it was just very short,” Saunders said.
He recalled that it was only days before Kings’ final march in Memphis for striking sanitation workers that he was in Bimini, where Saunders said the legend would often come for a place to write.
“We didn’t have time to fish because he wanted to just write at that time. He came to Bimini to feel peaceful,” Saunder said.
King found a quiet place at Bimini’s Bonefish Creek in 1968, according to Saunders, where he would write the words of his final and famous mountaintop speech. His speech, Saunders said, almost showed what was ahead for King.
“We’ve got some difficult days ahead. But it really doesn’t matter with me now, because I’ve been to the mountaintop.…Like anybody, I would like to live a long life. Longevity has its place. But I’m not concerned about that now.…I’ve seen the Promised Land. I may not get there with you. But I want you to know tonight, that we, as a people, will get to the Promised Land!...I’m not worried about anything. I’m not fearing any man! Mine eyes have seen the glory of the coming of the Lord!”
“Mine eyes have seen the glory of the coming of the Lord,” Saunders recited. “The next day, actually, he was dead. He had just left Bimini four days before that,” Saunders said, then added: “It was a high-powered rifle that killed him. He didn’t suffer but we suffered for him.”
The fisherman said what he’ll never forget is King’s reaction to a psalm Saunders wrote and delivered for several minutes on his boat to the Atlanta preacher.
“Only God can create a mustard tree, only God can give life to you and me. Amen.”
And then, he said, King responded to him by saying:
" ‘Ansil, you made me feel so close to heaven. I feel as though I could almost reach out and touch the face of God.’ "
The Bimini fisherman said he also took King to another perfectly peaceful place in Bimini to write another famous speech. That was for his 1964 Nobel Peace Prize acceptance speech.