MEMPHIS, Tenn. (WMC) - On the eve of the Martin Luther King, Jr. holiday, Vice-President Mike Pence spent the day paying tribute to a man he called a hero of his youth. After touching down in Memphis on Sunday morning, Pence made his way to the National Civil Rights Museum at the Lorraine Motel, where Dr. King was assassinated 52 years ago.
Museum leaders gave Pence a private tour and led him through exhibits that chronical important moments of the Civil Rights Movement.
Faith Morris, the chief marketing and external affairs officer for the National Civil Rights Museum, says the vice-president wanted to learn more about this time in our nation's history, especially about Dr. King's role in the sanitation strike that led him to Memphis.
"He was visibly moved by the story of the movement, visibly moved by the story of Dr. King being here, needing to be here, being called to be here," said Morris. "He seemed to have a very personal interest knowing more about Dr. King."
Congressman David Kustoff met Pence at the airport and accompanied him on the tour.
"The vice-president really wanted to come to Memphis, wanted to come on this special weekend and wanted to tour the civil rights museum and I think we all should applaud that," said Kustoff. "To have the vice-president of the United States visit Memphis and be a part of this is very special."
Museum leaders say they're aware of the controversy surrounding Pence's visit and the Trump administration in general.
Memphis is an overwhelmingly blue city.
While rural areas around Memphis strongly supported Trump and Pence in 2016, Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton won Shelby County by a 2-to-1 margin.
A recent Washington Post poll found African-Americans have a deep mistrust of the Trump administration. More than 8 in 10 believe President Trump is a racist.
But Morris said Pence's interest seemed genuine.
"I didn't get that there was any other agenda other than to be a part of the celebration of Dr. King's life," said Morris.
Pence ended the half-hour tour outside, looking up at the balcony where King was struck down.
At the Holy City Church of God in Christ in Raleigh, Pence called his visit to the museum “humbling” and said he was “deeply moved.”