Today, is the anniversary of Martin Luther King Jr.’s assignation in 1968.
It was a sad day for the country. Martin Luther King Jr. (born Michael King Jr., 15 January 1929 – 4 April 1968) was an American Baptist minister and activist who was a leader in the Civil Rights Movement. He is best known for his role in the advancement of civil rights using nonviolent civil disobedience based on his Christian beliefs. He was assassinated on 4 April 1968 in Memphis, Tennessee.
“When the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated, New York Governor Nelson Rockefeller dispatched his aide to Atlanta to help with the funeral arrangements. It was Mr. Canzeri (a native of Schuylerville), armed with Mr. Rockefeller’s checkbook and a police badge provided by the Mayor of Atlanta, who procured the mule team and wagon that carried the civil rights leader’s coffin through the city’s streets.” according to the New York Times The Impressario of the Inaugural Galas, by Phil Gailey (17 January 1985)
Schuylerville’s Joseph Wood Canzeri, (16 May 1930 – 22 November 2004) was a colorful advance man for Governor Rockefeller in the 1960s and 1970s who later worked in the Reagan White House doing everything from arranging seating on Air Force One to directing traffic in white tie and tails according to the New York Sun.
Canzeri described “I worked St. Patrick’s Cathedral with the cardinal and the Kennedy advance staff and the Kennedy family in New York, and I was sent to Atlanta with Wyatt Tee Walker, a former associate of Dr. King, to go down and handle the New York delegation. I arrived in Atlanta and thirty minutes later I’m sitting at the bedside of Coretta King, making plans for the funeral services. I didn’t quite know what we were into, but we were into a hell of a lot more than I thought we were. The first thing we had to do was get a plane to fly the Southern Leadership Conference back to Memphis to finish the march. That was eleven o’clock at night. We needed the plane there at seven in the morning, so I called Louse Boyer, the old Rockefeller assistant, and I told her I had some problems that are going to cost some money, and she said, “Do what you have to to make it right. The governor wants to provide any service he can for the King family at this particular time” according the William O’Shaughnessy’s “All Comes Back to Me Now: Character Portraits from the “Golden Apple”
Noted presidential historian Richard Norton Smith: On His Own Terms: A Life of Nelson Rockefeller, wrote that Joe Canzeri, even “picked out the casket, located and repaired an ancient farm wagon for the procession to the cemetery, found mules to pull it—and took the King children to see their father lying in repose at the Spelman Chapel (named for the family of Nelson’s grandmother Laura Spelman).”
Joseph Wood Canzeri was born in Schuylerville, N.Y., to parents who had immigrated to the United States from Sicily in 1900. He grew up in Saratoga, N.Y. according to his obituary in the Washington Post. “After serving as an Army infantryman during the Korean War, he enrolled at Paul Smith’s College of Arts and Sciences in New York, graduating with a two-year degree in hotel and restaurant management in 1955. He then managed restaurant and resort properties, including the White Face Inn in Lake Placid, N.Y., and the Otesaga Inn in Cooperstown.” Rockefeller regularly attended conferences at the Otesaga Inn and met Mr. Canzeri shortly after becoming New York governor in 1959. According to Mr. Canzeri’s longtime friend Paul Auchter, the governor was impressed with his ability to fix problems and handle details, large and small. Canzeri was a political advance man who worked for Republicans such as Nelson Rockefeller and Ronald Reagan, and briefly for Ross Perot in 1992.