Forty-one years ago today, James Earl Ray shot Martin Luther King, Jr. dead on the balcony of the Lorraine Motel. To memorialize this grim anniversary, LIFE has released a gallery of photographs taken at the Lorraine on April 4, 1968 and the following day. For some reason, the second and ninth pictures (of the Lorraine’s sign and of the contents of Dr. King’s briefcase) hit me the hardest. Perhaps it’s the juxtaposition of that Americana and American history (the images of the blood-soaked balcony and of Dr. King’s friends and colleagues from the SCLC mourning his loss) that’s so affecting. I honestly don’t know.