9:41am

Mon June 18, 2012
The Two-Way

Rodney King: 'What I Had To Do Was Make It Better'

Originally published on Mon June 18, 2012 10:38 am

The death Sunday of Rodney King, the victim of a 1991 police beating in Los Angeles who became a "reluctant symbol of race relations," as the Los Angeles Times says, is prompting many looks back at what happened to him and the Los Angeles riots that followed the 1992 acquittal of the officers involved.

The Times writes of the memories that haunted King.

And our colleagues at KPCC radio have reposted an April video interview of King by the station's Patt Morrison. In the conversation, King talks of the problems he had after that 1991 beating — including drug and alcohol abuse — and his efforts to put the incident behind him and be a face for forgiveness rather than revenge.

"I wouldn't want to go to bed with all that anger every day," he said.

"What I had to do was make it better."

King, 47, apparently drowned in the pool at his Los Angeles home. An autopsy today should determine whether drugs or alcohol played any role, police say. They do not suspect foul play.

His plaintive question during the L.A. riots — "can we ... can we all get along?" — is among the most famous quotes of the '90s. Earlier this year, he talked with ABC News about that moment. "The lawyers ... gave me some long script to read off of and I'm like 'no, this is not what I would say," he told ABC about why his famous words came out the way they did.

Update at 10:30 a.m. ET. More From King:

On April 27, King talked with Tell Me More host Michel Martin. He told her that his mother didn't want him to make a statement during the riots.

"She thought that maybe I'd get shot or beat to death out there on the podium," King told Michel. "But, you know, I'm from a new generation from hers, and her generation set the footwork. All the civil rights leaders and people who died, black and white, you know, Mexican, Chinese, black, you name it, all the ones who died for me and for civil rights in this country, you know, I owe that to them, you know, after thinking about it now. And so it was a good thing for me to get out there and put some water on the fire instead of throwing gasoline in it.

"You don't need to threaten the city to get your point across. That's the way I felt. That's not the way I was raised."

Copyright 2012 National Public Radio. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.