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Martin Luther King Assassinated 1968
On April 4th, a lone assassin killed Dr. Martin Luther King, America's leading civil rights activist. Dr. King had been on the forefront of the non-violent struggle to obtain civil rights for African-Americans. James Earl Ray was later convicted of the assassination.
Martin Luther King had traveled to Memphis to support the strike of cities, largely African American sanitation workers who were striking. When he came to Memphis, he usually stayed at the Lorrain Motel. He almost always stayed in the same room- room 306. At 6 PM on Thursday, April 4, 1968, King stepped onto the balcony outside his room. At 6:01, he was struck by a bullet in the face. The single bullet traveled down his spinal cord and lodged in his shoulder. He was rushed to Saint Joseph Hospital, where he died an hour later, without ever regaining consciousness.
The FBI investigated the shooting and arrested James Earl Ray, an ex-con. He was captured at London Heathrow Airport. He was extradited to the US and agreed to plead guilty in return for taking the death penalty off the table. Ray later withdrew his guilty plea claiming he was not guilty. He was sentenced to 99 years in prison and died there in 1998 at the age of 70.
Martin Luther King Jr. assassination conspiracy theories
The conspiracy theories surrounding the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr., a prominent leader of the civil rights movement, relate to different accounts of his assassination that took place on April 4, 1968, in Memphis, Tennessee. King was assassinated on the balcony of the Lorraine Motel, the day after giving his final speech "I've Been to the Mountaintop". Claims soon arose over suspect aspects of King's assassination and the controversial role of the alleged assassin, James Earl Ray. Although his guilty plea eliminated the possibility of a trial before a jury, within days, Ray had recanted and claimed his confession was forced. Suspicions were further raised by the confirmation of illegal surveillance of King by the FBI and the CIA.
In 1979, the United States House Select Committee on Assassinations (HSCA) released a report stating that there was a likelihood of conspiracy in the assassination of King. In 1999, a mixed-race jury at a Memphis civil suit reached a unanimous verdict that King was assassinated as a result of a conspiracy involving the U.S. government, a person named Raoul, among others.  "There is abundant evidence", Coretta King said after the verdict, "of a major, high-level conspiracy in the assassination of my husband". The jury found the mafia and various local, state, and federal government agencies "were deeply involved in the assassination. . Mr. Ray was set up to take the blame".  
1968: Martin Luther King Killed by Sniper
Famous African-American human rights activist – Martin Luther King – was assassinated on this day in 1968 with a shot from a sniper rifle. The assassination happened while King was on the second-floor balcony of the Lorraine Motel in Memphis, Tennessee.
The bullet hit King in the right cheek, went through his jaw and his spine, and remained lodged in his shoulder. He was taken to hospital, where in he was pronounced dead at 7:05 p.m..
A little more than two months after the murder, James Earl Ray, a white man from Illinois who confessed to the deed, was arrested. He was sentenced to 99 years in prison. He later recanted this confession, as he apparently gave it only because in case that he did not admit and got a trial conviction, he could be sentenced to the electric chair.
There are conspiracy theories related to the murder. It is interesting to note that James Earl Ray, while in prison, gave an interview for Playboy magazine, which included taking a polygraph test.
The polygraph allegedly showed that Ray really did kill King and that he did it alone.
The Martin Luther King Assassination Riots (1968)
The King Assassination Riots were a series of more than 100 cases of civil unrest that occurred in the wake of the death of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. This turmoil was apparent all throughout the nation as racial tensions rose to a volatile level. Different degrees of unrest were seen depending on the city in which it took place.
On April 4, 1968, civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated in Memphis, Tennessee. The news of his assassination led to an outpouring of different emotions from blacks around the United States. The assassination was also a catalyst for civil unrest and many took to the streets to express their grief and anger in the forms of marches and protests. Not all of these demonstrations remained peaceful and in some of instances turned violent. Some of the most notable riots occurred in Baltimore (Maryland), Chicago (Illinois), Louisville (Kentucky), New York City (New York), and Washington, D.C.
The unrest in Baltimore came into motion on Friday, the day after King’s assassination, but tensions had been building beforehand due to frustrations in the black community. Thousands of National Guard troops, 500 Maryland police, and numerous federal troops were brought to the city in response to the events taking place. The riot resulted in more than 4,000 arrests and over a thousand business had been burned or looted. $13.5 million in damage was sustained in the city.
In Chicago riots also began on Friday, April 5, and occurred primarily on the city’s West Side. The scene in Chicago was characterized by looting, arson, and violence. Three thousand Illinois National Guard troops were ordered into the city to help police and Cook County Sheriff’s Deputies keep the peace. The unrest in Chicago led to eleven deaths and over a hundred destroyed buildings.
The events in Louisville took place in May and were instigated in part by King’s assassination but also by the fact that a white officer involved in the beating of a black man was reinstated by the police department after a brief investigation. Numerous troops of the Kentucky National Guard tried to quell the violence taking place in Louisville. Over 400 arrests were made and $200,000 in damages were a result of what had happened.
Although damage, looting, and violence did occur in New York City it was largely avoided in part to the actions of the city’s mayor, John Lindsay. Mayor Lindsay went into Harlem and interacted with its residents and calmed the people by saying he was sorry about what happened to Dr. King.
In Washington D.C., the riots began on the same day Dr. King was assassinated. The unrest in the nation’s capital led to over 1,000 buildings being burned and $27 million in damages. Numerous National Guard troops and Marines were called into D.C. to help maintain order.
President Lyndon B. Johnson condemned the assassination of Dr. King and initiated a series of legislative acts which many in the White House believed would improve conditions for African Americans in the inner cities. The Fair Housing Act passed by Congress on April 11, 1968 was one such measure. Congress, however, rejected the rest of Johnson’s proposals believing the president did not do enough to suppress the urban violence.
The King assassination riots had added to the already numerous riots that occurred in the 1960s such as the Watts riotof Los Angeles, California in 1965. King’s death was superimposed upon other racial issues already facing many cities and to many blacks seemed the rejection of his non-violent approach to racial reform. The damage in the wake of King’s death, however, also damaged many city’s economies and as a result thousands of jobs were lost, crime increased, property values decreased and most black communities were even more isolated from the rest of their cities than before the violence.
Today in History, April 4, 1968: Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated
Congress decided the flag of the United States would consist of 13 red and white stripes and 20 stars, with a new star to be added for every new state of the Union.
President William Henry Harrison of North Bend succumbed to pneumonia one month after his inauguration.
The William Henry Harrison tomb in North Bend. (Photo: File photo)
Susanna Madora Salter became the first woman elected mayor of an American community: Argonia, Kansas.
The U.S. Senate voted 82-6 in favor of declaring war against Germany (the House followed suit two days later by a vote of 373-50).
During World War II, U.S. forces liberated Nazi concentration camp Ohrdruf in Germany. Hungary was liberated as Soviet forces cleared out remaining German troops.
Twelve nations, including the United States, signed the North Atlantic Treaty in Washington, D.C.
The Beatles made music history by holding the top five places in the singles charts with the songs “Can’t Buy Me Love,” “Twist and Shout,” “She Loves You,” “I Want to Hold Your Hand” and “Please Please Me.”
The Beatles perform on the CBS "Ed Sullivan Show" in New York, in this Feb. 9, 1964, file photo. From left, front, are Paul McCartney, George Harrison and John Lennon. Ringo Starr plays drums in rear. (Photo: AP file)
Civil rights leader the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., 39, was shot and killed while standing on a balcony of the Lorraine Motel in Memphis, Tennessee. Suspected gunman James Earl Ray later pleaded guilty to assassinating King, then spent the rest of his life claiming he’d been the victim of a setup.
World Trade Center, a group of buildings that included the Twin Towers that were then the world’s tallest buildings, opened in New York City. (The Twin Towers were destroyed in the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks.)
Hank Aaron of the Atlanta Braves tied Babe Ruth’s home run record of 714 with a home run on Opening Day against the Cincinnati Reds at Riverfront Stadium.
APRIL 4, 1974: Hank Aaron bashes home run 714 at Riverfront Stadium to tie Babe Ruth's record. (Photo: Bob Free/The Enquirer)
More than 130 people, most of them children, were killed when a U.S. Air Force transport plane evacuating Vietnamese orphans crash-landed shortly after takeoff from Saigon.
Microsoft was founded by Bill Gates and Paul Allen in Albuquerque, New Mexico.
The space shuttle Challenger roared into orbit on its maiden voyage. (It was destroyed in the disaster of January 1986.)
Beyonce and Jay-Z were married during a private ceremony in New York.
A federal appeals court ruled for the first time that the 1964 Civil Rights Act protected LGBT employees from workplace discrimination in a decision that concerned the case of an Indiana teacher who charged that she wasn’t hired full-time because she was a lesbian.
From the archives: Martin Luther King Jr. assassinated (April 4, 1968)
MEMPHIS, Tenn. — In the spring of 1968, the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. had won victories on desegregation and voting rights and had been planning his Poor People's Campaign when he turned his attention to Memphis, the gritty city by the Mississippi River. In his support for striking sanitation workers, King wanted to lead marches and show that nonviolent protest still worked.
But on April 4, at the city's Lorraine Motel, he would be fatally shot.
Here are three stories from The Associated Press coverage of the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr.
MEMPHIS, TENN., APRIL 4 (AP) — Nobel Laureate Martin Luther King Jr., father of nonviolence in the American civil rights movement, was killed by an assassin's bullet Thursday night.
King, 39, was hit in the neck by a bullet as he stood on the balcony of a motel here. He died less than an hour later in St. Joseph's Hospital.
Gov. Buford Ellington immediately ordered 4,000 National Guard troops back into the city. A curfew, which was clamped on Memphis after a King-led march turned into a riot a week ago, was reimposed.
Police said incidents of violence, including several firebombings, were reported following King's death.
The 1964 Nobel Peace Prize winner was standing on the balcony of his motel here, where he had come to lead protests in behalf of the city's 1,300 striking garbage workers, most of them Negroes, when he was shot.
Two unidentified men who were arrested were released several hours later.
As word of King's death spread through the stunned city, Negroes in scattered areas also looted stores, stoned police and firetrucks and tossed several firebombs. Two policemen were injured, mainly by flying glass when a shotgun blast broke their windshield.
Four hours after King died, the city was quieting some, but police still reported sporadic outbreaks.
Police also said they found a 30.05 rifle on Main Street about one block from the motel, but it was not confirmed whether this was the weapon that killed King.
An aide who was standing nearby said the shot hit King in the neck and lower right part of his face.
"Martin Luther King is dead," said Assistant Police Chief Henry Lux, the first word of the death.
Assistant Hospital Administrator Paul Hess confirmed later that King died at 7 p.m. of a bullet wound in the neck.
The Rev. Jesse Jackson said he and others in the King party were getting ready to go to dinner when the shooting occurred.
"King was on the second-floor balcony of the motel," Jackson said. "He had just bent over. If he had been standing up, he wouldn't have been hit in the face."
King had just told Ben Branch: "My man, be sure to sing 'Blessed Lord' tonight, and sing it well."
A shot then rang out, Jackson said.
Jackson said the only sound King uttered after that was, "Oh!"
"It knocked him down. When I turned around I saw police coming from everywhere. They said, 'where did it come from,' and I said 'behind you.' The police were coming from where the shot came." Branch, another member of the King party, said "The bullet exploded in his face. It knocked him off his feet." Solomon Jones, King's chauffeur, said he saw a "man in white clothes" running from the scene. Violence erupted again shortly after King was shot. Police reported snipers firing on police and National Guard units, and several persons were reported hit by the shots. Several firebombings and other acts of vandal-ism also were reported. Police director Frank Holloman ordered a cur-few back into effect "until further notice" as youths ran rampant, many of them with fire-bombs in their hands.
National Guard units, which had been deactivated only Wednesday after five days on duty here, were called back to active duty and rushed to Memphis.
A bomb threat was telephoned to Methodist Hospital, and police were rushed to the scene.
Armed guards were immediately posted at St. Joseph's Hospital, where King died.
Holloman said early investigation indicated the assassin was a white male, who was "50 to 100 yards away in a flophouse." He said police had no definite leads but that two persons were in custody.
NEW YORK, APRIL 4 (AP) — From President Johnson to a lady weeping in Detroit, the nation reacted to the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Thursday night with anguish, shock and pleas that his death would not trigger the violence he deplored.
"We have been saddened," President Johnson told the nation on radio and television. "I ask every citizen to reject the blind violence that has struck Dr. King, who lived by non-violence."
The president said he was postponing his trip to Hawaii, for a Vietnam strategy conference, until Friday. He had been scheduled to leave about midnight Thursday.
Vice President Hubert H. Humphrey said the slaying "brings shame to our country. An apostle of non-violence has been the victim of violence." The vice president, however, said Dr. King's death will bring new strength to the cause he fought for.
Mrs. Rosa Parks, one of the earliest prominent figures in the modern civil rights movement, wept at her Detroit home: "I can't talk now, I just can't talk."
"Martin is dead," said James Farmer, former national director of the Congress of Racial Equality. "God help us all.
"We kill our conscience, we cut open our soul. I can't say what is in my heart[--]anger, fear, love for him and sorrow for his family and the family of black people."
Churches opened their doors and readied special services in Dr. King's honor. The Protestant Council of the City of New York asked that all churches remain open Friday and Saturday so that "all citizens may bring supplication to God that the ideals of this man's life will not be lost."
James Meredith, who was shot in June 1966 during a voter registration march in Mississippi, said, "This is America's answer to the peaceful, non-violent way of obtaining rights in this country."
Gov. John B. Connally Jr. of Texas, victim of a sniper's bullet with President John F. Kennedy, said Dr. King "contributed much to the chaos and turbulence in this country, but he did not deserve this fate. . "
Roy Wilkins, executive director of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, said the NAACP is "shocked and deeply grieved by the dastardly murder of Dr. Martin Luther King. . It will not stay the civil rights movement it will instead spur it to greater activity."
Leontyne Price, a soprano for the Metropolitan Opera, and a Negro, said: "What Dr. Martin Luther King stood for and was, can never be killed with a bullet."
Whitney Young, executive director of the National Urban League: "We are unspeakably shocked by the murder of Dr. Martin Luther King, one of the greatest leaders of our time. This is a bitter reflection on America. We fear for our country."
Floyd McKissick, national director of CORE, said that with Dr. King's death, non-violence "is now a dead philosophy.
"This is racism in the most extreme form, it is truly American racism," McKissick said. "We make no predictions, but, mark my word, black Americans of all sorts and beliefs loved Martin Luther King."
Jackie Robinson, first Negro to play in major-league baseball and now an adviser on race relations in New York state: "I'm shocked. Oh, my God, I'm frightened. I'm very concerned, disturbed and very worried. I pray God this doesn't end up in the streets."
MEMPHIS, TENN., APRIL 4 (AP) — "It really doesn't matter what happens now. I've been to the mountaintop."
The speaker was Martin Luther King Jr. His audience was a cheering crowd of some 2,000 supporters. It was Wednesday night.
Less than 24 hours later, the nation's foremost apostle of non-violence was dead[--]the victim of an assassin's bullet[--]as he stood on the threshold of the biggest test of the theories he espoused.
King said Wednesday night that he was aware that threats had been made on his life. But he said he had seen the fulfillment of his goals of non-violence and did not worry about the future.
He said his flight to Memphis from Atlanta Tuesday had been delayed because of a baggage search which airlines officials said resulted from threats to him.
"And there have been some threats around here," he added.
"We've got some difficult days ahead, but it really doesn't matter now," King said. "Because I've been to the mountaintop."
And Andrew Young, executive vice president of King's Southern Christian Leadership Conference, said he had heard King make similar re-marks only once before[--]at Demopolis, Ala., during his 1964 Selma march.
"I don't know whether it was premonition or not," Young said as he stood in the door of the emergency room where the Nobel Peace Prize winner had been taken after he was felled by the bullet.
The supreme test of the theory of non-violence was to have come next Monday, when King planned to lead a massive march down the path where violence broke out last week.
It was the first time in King's long history of civil rights activity that one of his drives had erupted into violence. He was clearly disturbed.
Young, testifying at a federal court hearing six hours before King was shot, was asked by U.S. District Judge Bailey Brown what effect violence in the upcoming march would have on King.
"I would say that Dr. King would consider it a repudiation of his philosophy and his whole way of life," Young replied. "I don't know when I've seen him as discouraged and depressed."
But the discouragement had left King's voice when he addressed the audience Wednesday night. "Let us stand with greater determination," he said.
"Let us move on in these days of challenge to make America what it ought to be."
The Assassination and Resurrection of Martin Luther King, Jr.
“I don’t believe in death without resurrection. If they kill me, I will rise again in the Salvadorian people…” – Archbishop Oscar Romero, martyred, 24 March 1980
Whether we are aware of it or not, we live by stories. We live by others’ stories while we tell our lives by how we live. Our actions tell our stories. Then when we die, others tell our stories as they wish.
This is the spiritual thread that links the meanings of our lives. It is the way we pass over to other lives and return to our own. But without truth, we end up in the wrong place, living the wrong stories.
And don’t the stories of certain special people inspire us to carry on their legacies because their spirits are far stronger than death? Their courage contagious? Their witness the triumph of life over death? Love over hate?
Don’t they challenge us to imitate them, to kindle in us the fire of their resurrected spirits?
For Christians, Holy Week is the time for deep reflection on the story of the death and resurrection of Jesus and what they mean for us today. This year, the anniversary of the murder of the Christian prophet and martyr, Martin Luther King, Jr., falls on Easter Sunday, April 4, which gives rise to doubly deeper thoughts that cross religious boundaries where people of all faiths or none can unite in the spirit of non-violent resistance to the forces of war, poverty, racism, and materialism – violence in all its forms. Everything that stands in the way of what King called “the Beloved Community.”
That Jesus met violence with non-violent love and voluntarily entered the darkness of death and abandonment is at the heart of the Christian faith. So too his Resurrection. If the Jewish radical Jesus had not been executed by the Roman state occupiers of Palestine, if all hope for his followers had not seemingly been lost, then his Resurrection could not have given birth to hope in his followers to carry on his spirit of love for the poor, the downtrodden, and the outcasts – his resistance to violence.
Like Oscar Romero in El Salvador, gunned down by U.S. trained death squads at the altar while offering Mass and subsequently named a saint by the Roman Catholic Church, Martin Luther King, Jr.’s witness and the truth about his death should be a central meditative focus this year. For the convergence of King’s death on April 4, 1968 with Easter this April 4th and the last day of Passover offers us a way to contemplate what is now demanded of all people who yearn for the end to hatred, violence, and injustice, and the creation of a beloved world community where love and kindness reign.
The spirit of all the prophets and martyrs is about now, not then about us, not them it confronts us with the challenge to interrogate ourselves.
Shall we turn away from their witness? What truly animates our souls? Where do we stand? Do we support the state’s power to kill and wage war, to deny people freedom, to discriminate, to oppress the poor?
It is always about now the living truth is now.
To contemplate the lives of the prophets takes us very deep into the darkness where we encounter the murders of Jesus, King, Romero, and all those who have died trying to make peace and justice a reality. But only if we go into the darkest truths will we be able to see the light that leads us to accept the resurrected spirit of their resistance to evil.
Another prophet of our broken world, the Hindu Mohandas Gandhi, soul brother to King, echoed the words that many have heard, that “God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong,” when, in crossing over to the Christian tradition, he told us: “We dare not think of birth without death on the cross. Living Christ means a Living Cross, without it life is a living death.”
So what do we need to know about MLK, and why does it matter?
King’s True Story
Very few Americans are aware of the truth behind the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., the United States’ celebrated civil rights icon. Few books have been written about it, unlike other significant assassinations, especially JFK’s. For more than fifty years there has been a media blackout supported by government disinformation to hide the truth. And few people, in a massive act of self-deception, have chosen to question the official explanation, choosing, rather, to embrace a mythic fabrication intended to sugarcoat the bitter fruit that has resulted from the murder of one man capable of leading a mass movement for transformative change in the United States. Today we are eating the fruit of our denial as racial discrimination, poverty, and police violence garner the headlines.
After more than a decade as America’s best-known and most respected civil rights leader, by 1968 Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr. had increasingly focused on poverty issues and publicly declared his intense opposition to the U.S. war against Vietnam in a famous speech – “Beyond Vietnam: The Time To Break the Silence” – at New York’s Riverside Church on April 4, 1967, one year to the day before he was assassinated.
Having won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1964, he emerged in the mid-1960s as an international figure, whose opinions on human and economic rights and peaceful coexistence were influential world-wide. Shortly before his assassination, he was organizing the Poor People’s Campaign that would involve hundreds of thousands of Americans who would encamp in Washington, D.C to demand the end to economic inequality, racism, and war.
At the same time, Reverend King was hated by an array of racists throughout America, especially in the American South. Among his greatest declared enemies was FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover, who seemed convinced that King’s backers were Communists out to damage America’s interests. In the late 1960s, the FBI’s COINTELPRO program created a network of informants and agent provocateurs to undermine the civil rights and anti-war movements with a special focus on King.
After King’s “I Have a Dream” speech in 1963, William Sullivan, the head of the FBI’s domestic intelligence division, wrote in a post-speech memo:
Personally, I believe in the light of King’s powerful, demagogic speech that he stands head and shoulders over all other Negro leaders put together when it comes to influencing great masses. We must mark him now, if we have not done so before, as the most dangerous Negro of the future in this Nation from the standpoint of communism, the Negro and national security.
The FBI, after extensive eavesdropping on King, subsequently sent him an anonymous letter urging him to kill himself or else his extramarital sex life would be exposed. The FBI’s and its Director J Edgar Hoover’s hatred for King was so great that nothing was too low for them.
This history is common knowledge as reported in the Washington Post, The New York Times, etc.
During the Senate Church Committee hearings in the mid-1970s, a parallel group within the CIA, code-named CHAOS, was uncovered. Despite its charter disallowing it from operating inside the United States, the CIA similarly used illegal means to disrupt the civil rights and anti-war movements.
Because MLK, in his Riverside Church speech, spoke clearly to what he identified there as “the greatest purveyor of violence in the world today – my own government” and continued to relentlessly confront his own government on its criminal war against Vietnam, he was universally condemned by the mass media and the government that later – once he was long and safely dead and no longer a threat – praised him to the heavens. This has continued to the present day of historical amnesia.
Today Martin Luther King’s birthday is celebrated with a national holiday, but his death day disappears down the memory hole. Across the country – in response to the King Holiday and Service Act passed by Congress and signed by President Bill Clinton in 1994 – people are encouraged to make the day one of service (from Latin, servus = slave). Etymological irony aside, such service does not include King’s commitment to protesting a decadent system of racial and economic injustice or non-violently resisting the warfare state that is the United States. Government sponsored service is cultural neo-liberalism at its finest.
The word service is a loaded word it has become a smiley face and vogue word over the past thirty-five years. It’s use for MLK Day is clear: individuals are encouraged to volunteer for activities such as tutoring children, painting senior centers, delivering meals to the elderly, etc., activities that are good in themselves but far less good when used to conceal an American prophet’s message. After all, Martin Luther King’s work was not volunteering at the local food pantry with Oprah Winfrey cheering him on.
But service without truth is slavery. It is propaganda aimed at convincing decent people into thinking that they are serving the essence of MLK’s message while they are following a message of misdirection.
Educating people about who killed King, and why, and why it matters today, is the greatest service we can render to his memory.
What exactly is the relationship between King’s saying that “the greatest purveyor of violence in the world today – my own government” and his murder?
Let’s look at the facts.
Martin Luther King, Jr. was assassinated on April 4, 1968, at 6:01 PM as he stood on the balcony of the Lorraine Motel in Memphis, Tennessee. He was shot in the lower right side of his face by one rifle bullet that shattered his jaw, damaged his upper spine, and came to rest below his left shoulder blade. The U.S. government claimed the assassin was a racist loner named James Earl Ray, who had escaped from the Missouri State Penitentiary on April 23, 1967. Ray was alleged to have fired the fatal shot from a second-floor bathroom window of a rooming house above the rear of Jim’s Grill across the street. Running to his rented room, Ray allegedly gathered his belongings, including the rifle, in a bedspread-wrapped bundle, rushed out the front door onto the adjoining street, and in a panic dropped the bundle in the doorway of the Canipe Amusement Company a few doors down. He was then said to have jumped into his white Mustang and to have driven to Atlanta where he abandoned the car. From there he fled to Canada and then to England and then to Portugal and back to England where he was eventually arrested at Heathrow Airport on June 8, 1968, and extradited to the U.S. The state claims that the money Ray needed to purchase the car and for all his travel was secured through various robberies and a bank heist. Ray’s alleged motive was racism and that he was a bitter and dangerous loner.
When Ray, under extraordinary pressure, coercion, and a payoff from his lawyer to take a plea, pleaded guilty (only a few days later to request a trial that was denied) and was sentenced to 99 years in prison, the case seemed to be closed, and was dismissed from public consciousness. Another hate-filled lone assassin, as the government also termed Lee Harvey Oswald and Sirhan Sirhan, had committed a despicable deed.
Ray had received erroneous advice from his attorney, Percy Foreman. Foreman had a long history representing government, corporate, intelligence, and mafia figures, including Jack Ruby, in cases where the government wanted to keep people silent. Ray was told that the government would go after Ray’s father and brother, Jerry, and that he’d get the electric chair if he didn’t plead guilty,
Ray initially acquiesced. He entered what is known as an Alford plea before Judge Preston Battle. In making his plea, Ray did not admit to any criminal act and asserted his innocence. The following day, he fired Percy Foreman, who, by offering money to induce a guilty plea, had committed a criminal offense. Foreman had also lied to Judge Battle about his contract with Ray. And, the transcript of Ray’s testimony was doctored to help support the government’s case. Ray was sentenced to life in prison. After three days, Ray tried to retract his plea and maintained his innocence for almost 30 years until his death.
The United State government’s case against James Earl Ray was extremely weak from the start, and in the intervening years has grown so weak that it is no longer believable. A vast body of evidence has accumulated that renders it patently false.
But before examining such evidence, it is important to point out that MLK, Jr, his father, Rev. M. L. King, Sr, and his maternal grandfather, Rev. A.D. Williams, all pastors of Atlanta’s Ebenezer Baptist Church, were spied on by Army Intelligence and the FBI since 1917. All were considered dangerous because of their espousal of racial and economic equality. None of this had to do with war or foreign policy, but such spying was connected to their religious opposition to racist and economic policies that stretched back to slavery, realities that have been officially acknowledged today. But when MLK, Jr. forcefully denounced unjust and immoral war-making as well, especially the Vietnam war, and announced his Poor People’s Campaign and intent to lead a massive peaceful encampment of hundreds of thousands in Washington, D.C., he set off panic in the inner sanctums of the government. Seventy-five years of spying on black religious leaders here found its ultimate “justification.”
The corporate mass media has for more than fifty years echoed the government’s version of the King assassination. Here and there, however, mainly through the alternative media, and also through the monumental work and persistence of the King family lawyer, William Pepper, the truth about the assassination has surfaced. Through decades of research, a TV trial, a jury trial, and three meticulously researched books, Pepper has documented the parts played in the assassination by F.B.I. Director J. Edgar Hoover, the F.B.I., Army Intelligence, Memphis Police, and southern Mafia figures. In his last two books, An Act of State (2003) and later The Plot to Kill King (2016), Pepper presents his comprehensive case.
William Pepper’s decades-long investigation not only refutes the flimsy case against James Earl Ray, but definitively proves that King was killed by a government conspiracy led by J. Edgar Hoover and the FBI, Army Intelligence, and Memphis Police, assisted by southern Mafia figures. He is right to assert that “we have probably acquired more detailed knowledge about this political assassination than we have ever had about any previous historical event.” This makes the silence around this case even more shocking.
This shock is accentuated when one is reminded (or told for the first time) that in 1999 a Memphis jury, after a thirty-day trial with over seventy witnesses, found the U.S. government guilty in the killing of MLK.
In that 1999 Memphis civil trial (see complete transcript) brought by the King family, the jury found that King was murdered by a conspiracy that included governmental agencies. The corporate media, when they reported it at all, dismissed the jury’s verdict and those who accepted it, including the entire King family led by Coretta Scott King, as delusional. Time magazine called the verdict a confirmation of the King family’s “lurid fantasies.” The Washington Post compared those who believed it with those who claimed that Hitler was unfairly accused of genocide. A smear campaign ensued that has continued to the present day and then the fact that a trial ever occurred disappeared down the memory hole so that today most people never heard of it and assume MLK was killed by a crazy white racist, James Earl Ray, if they know even that.
The civil trial was the King family’s last resort to get a public hearing to disclose the truth of the assassination. They and Pepper knew, and proved, that Ray was an innocent pawn, but Ray had died in prison in 1998 after trying for thirty years to get a trial and prove his innocence. During all these years, Ray had maintained that he had been manipulated by a shadowy figure named Raul, who supplied him with money and his white Mustang and coordinated all his complicated travels, including having him buy a rifle and come to Jim’s Grill and the boarding house on the day of the assassination to give it to Raul. The government has always denied Raul existed. Pepper proved that that was a lie.
Slowly, however, glimmers of light have been shed on that trial and truth of the assassination.
On March 30, 2018, The Washington Post’s crime reporter, Tom Jackman, published a four-column front-page article, “Who killed Martin Luther King Jr.? His family believes James Earl Ray was framed.” While not close to an endorsement of the trial’s conclusions, it is a far cry from past nasty dismissals of those who agreed with the jury’s verdict as conspiracy nuts or Hitler supporters. After decades of clouding over the truth of MLK’s assassination, some rays of truth have come peeping through, and on the front page of the WP at that.
Jackman makes it very clear that all the surviving King family members – Bernice, Dexter, and Martin III – are in full agreement that James Earl Ray, the accused assassin, did not kill their father, and that there was and continues to be a conspiracy to cover up the truth. He adds to that the words of the highly respected civil rights icon and now deceased U.S. Congressman from Georgia, Rep. John Lewis (D-Ga.), who said:
I think there was a major conspiracy to remove Dr. King from the American scene,
and former U.N. ambassador and Atlanta mayor Andrew Young, who was with King at the Lorraine Motel when he was shot, who concurs:
I would not accept the fact that James Earl Ray pulled the trigger, and that is all that matters.
Additionally, Jackman adds that Andrew Young emphasized that the assassination of King came after that of President Kennedy, Malcolm X, and a few months before that of Senator Robert Kennedy.
“We were living in a period of assassinations,” he quotes Young as saying, a statement clearly intimating their linkages and coming from a widely respected and honorable man.
In the years leading up to Pepper’s 1978 involvement in the MLK case, only a few lonely voices expressed doubts about the government’s case, such as, Harold Weisberg’s Frame Up in 1971 and Mark Lane’s and Dick Gregory’s Code Name “Zorro” in 1977. While other lonely researchers dug deeper, most of the country put themselves and the case to sleep.
As with the assassinations of President Kennedy and his brother, Robert (two months after MLK), all evidence points to the construction of scapegoats to take the blame for government executions. Ray, Oswald, and Sirhan Sirhan all bear striking resemblances in the ways they were chosen and moved as pawns over long periods of time into positions where their only reactions could be stunned surprise when they were accused of the murders.
It took Pepper many years to piece together the essential truths, once he and Reverend Ralph Abernathy, Dr. King’s associate, interviewed Ray in prison in 1978. The first giveaway that something was seriously amiss came with the 1979 House Select Committee on Assassinations’ report on the King assassination. Led by Robert Blakey, suspect in his conduct of the other assassination inquiries, who had replaced Richard Sprague, who was deemed to be too independent, “this multi-million-dollar investigation ignored or denied all evidence that raised the possibility that James Earl Ray was innocent,” and that government forces might be involved. Pepper lists in his book over twenty such omissions that rival the absurdities of the magical thinking of the Warren Commission. The HSCA report became the template “for all subsequent disinformation in print and visual examinations of this case” for the past forty-two years.
Blocked at every turn by the authorities and unable to get Ray a trial, Pepper arranged an unscripted, mock TV trial that aired on April 4, 1993, the twenty-fifth anniversary of the assassination. Jurors were selected from a pool of U.S. citizens, a former U.S. Attorney and a federal judge served as prosecutor and judge, with Pepper serving as defense attorney. He presented extensive evidence clearly showing that authorities had withdrawn all security for King that the state’s chief witness was falling down drunk that the alleged bathroom sniper’s nest was empty right before the shot was fired that three eyewitnesses, including the New York Times’ Earl Caldwell, said that the shot came from the bushes behind the rooming house and that two eyewitnesses saw Ray drive away in his white Mustang before the shooting, etc. The prosecution’s feeble case was rejected by the jury that found Ray not guilty.
As with all Pepper’s work on the case, the mainstream media responded with silence. And though this was only a TV trial, increasing evidence emerged that the owner of Jim’s Grill, Loyd Jowers, was deeply involved in the assassination. Pepper dug deeper, and on December 16, 1993, Loyd Jowers appeared on ABC’s Primetime Live that aired nationwide. Pepper writes:
Loyd Jowers cleared James Earl Ray, saying that he did not shoot MLK but that he, Jowers, had hired a shooter after he was approached by Memphis produce man Frank Liberto and paid $100,000 to facilitate the assassination. He also said that he had been visited by a man named Raul who delivered a rifle and asked him to hold it until arrangements were finalized …. The morning after the Primetime Live broadcast there was no coverage of the previous night’s program, not even on ABC …. Here was a confession, on prime-time television, to involvement in one of the most heinous crimes in the history of the Republic, and virtually no American mass-media coverage.
In the twenty-eight years since that confession, Pepper has worked tirelessly on the case and has uncovered a plethora of additional evidence that refutes the government’s claims and indicts it and the media for a continuing cover-up. The evidence he has gathered, detailed and documented in An Act of State and The Plot to Kill King, proves that Martin Luther King was killed by a conspiracy masterminded by the U.S. government. The foundation of his case proving that was presented at the 1999 trial, while other supporting documentation was subsequently discovered.
Since the names and details involved make clear that, as with the murders of JFK and RFK, the conspiracy was very sophisticated with many moving parts organized at the highest level, I will just highlight a few of his findings in what follows.
- Pepper refutes the government and proves, through multiple witnesses, telephonic, and photographic evidence, that Raul existed that his full name is Raul Coelho and that he was James Earl Ray’s intelligence handler, who provided him with money and instructions from their first meeting in the Neptune Bar in Montreal, where Ray had fled in 1967 after his prison escape, until the day of the assassination. It was Raul who instructed Ray to return from Canada to the U.S. (an act that makes no sense for an escaped prisoner who had fled the country), gave him money for the white Mustang, helped him attain travel documents, and moved him around the country like a pawn on a chess board. The parallels to Lee Harvey Oswald are startling.
- He presents the case of Donald Wilson, a former FBI agent working out of the Atlanta office in 1968, who went with a senior colleague to check out an abandoned white Mustang with Alabama plates (Ray’s car, to which Raul had a set of keys) and opened the passenger door to find that an envelope and some papers fell out onto the ground. Thinking he may have disturbed a crime scene, the nervous Wilson pocketed them. Later, when he read them, their explosive content intuitively told him that if he gave them to his superiors they would be destroyed. One piece was a torn-out page from a 1963 Dallas telephone directory with the name Raul written at the top, and the letter “J” with a Dallas telephone number for a club run by Jack Ruby, Oswald’s killer. The page was for the letter H and had numerous phone numbers for H. L. Hunt, Dallas oil billionaire and a friend of FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover. Both men hated MLK. The second sheet contained Raul’s name and a list of names and sums and dates for payment. On the third sheet was written the telephone number and extension for the Atlanta FBI office. (Read James W. Douglass’s important interview with Donald Wilson in The Assassinations, pp.479-491.)
- Pepper shows that the alias Ray was given and used from July 1967 until April 4, 1968 – Eric Galt – was the name of a Toronto U.S. Army Intelligence operative, Eric St. Vincent Galt, who worked for Union Carbide with Top Secret clearance. The warehouse at the Canadian Union Carbide Plant in Toronto that Galt supervised “housed a top-secret munitions project funded jointly by the CIA, the U.S. Naval Surface Weapons Center, and the Army Electronics Research and Development Command …. In August 1967, Galt met with Major Robert M. Collins, a top aide to the head of the 902 nd Military Intelligence Group (MIG), Colonel John Downie.” Downie selected four members for an Alpha 184 Sniper Unit that was sent to Memphis to back up the primary assassin of MLK. Meanwhile, Ray, set up as the scapegoat, was able to move about freely since he was protected by the pseudonymous NSA clearance for Eric Galt.
- To refute the government’s claim that Ray and his brother robbed the Alton, Illinois Bank to finance his travels and car purchase (therefore no Raul existed), Pepper “called the sheriff in Alton and the president of the bank they gave the same statement. The Ray brothers had nothing to do with the robbery. No one from the HSCA, the FBI, or The New York Times had sought their opinion.” CNN later reiterated the media falsehood that became part of the official false story.
- Pepper shows that the fatal shot came from the bushes behind Jim’s Grill and the rooming house, not from the bathroom window. He presents overwhelming evidence for this, showing that the government’s claim, based on the testimony on a severely drunk Charlie Stephens, was absurd. His evidence includes the testimony of numerous eyewitnesses and that of Loyd Jowers (a nine-and-a-half-hour deposition), the owner of Jim’s Grill, who said he joined another person in the bushes, and after the shot was fired to kill King, he brought the rifle back into the Grill through the back door. Thus, Ray was not the assassin.
- He presents conclusive evidence that the bushes were cut down the morning after the assassination in an attempt to corrupt the crime scene. The order to do so came from Memphis Police Department Inspector Sam Evans to Maynard Stiles, a senior administrator of the Memphis Department of Public Works.
- He shows how King’s room was moved from a safe interior room, 201, to balcony room, 306, on the upper floor how King was conveniently positioned alone on the balcony by members of his own entourage for the easy mortal head shot from the bushes across the street. (Many people only remember the iconic photograph taken after-the-fact with Jesse Jackson, Andrew Young, et al., standing over the fallen King and pointing across the street.) He uncovers the role of black Memphis Police Department Domestic Intelligence and military intelligence agent Marrell McCollough, attached to the 111 th MIG, within the entourage. McCollough can be seen kneeling over the fallen King, checking to see if he’s dead. McCollough officially joined the CIA in 1974 (see Douglass Valentine’s “Deconstructing Kowalski: The DOJ’s Strange MLK Report”)
- Pepper confirms that all of this, including that the assassin in the bushes was dutifully photographed by Army Intelligence agents situated on the nearby Fire House roof.
- He presents evidence that all security for Dr. King was withdrawn from the area by the Memphis Police Department, including a special security unit of black officers, and four tactical police units. A black detective at the nearby fire station, Ed Redditt, was withdrawn from his post on the afternoon of April 4 th , allegedly because of a death threat against him. And the only two black firemen at Fire Station No. 2 were transferred to another station.
- He confirms the presence of “Operation Detachment Alpha 184 team,” a Special Forces sniper team in civilian disguise at locations high above the Lorraine Motel balcony, and he names one soldier, John D. Hill, as part of Alpha 184 and another military team, Selma Twentieth SFG, that was in Memphis.
- He explains the use of two white mustangs in the operation to frame Ray.
- He proves that Ray had driven off before the shooting that Lloyd Jowers took the rifle from the shooter who was in the bushes that the Memphis police were working in close collaboration with the FBI, Army Intelligence, and the “Dixie Mafia,” particularly local produce dealer Frank Liberto and his New Orleans associate Carlos Marcello and that every aspect of the government’s case was filled with holes that any person familiar with the details and possessing elementary logical abilities could refute.
- So importantly, Pepper shows how the mainstream media and government flacks have spent years covering up the truth of MLK’s murder through lies and disinformation, just as they have done with the Kennedy and Malcom X assassinations that are of a piece with this one.
There is such a mass of evidence through depositions, documents, interviews, photographs, etc. in Pepper’s An Act of State and The Plot to Kill King that makes it abundantly clear that the official explanation that James Earl Ray killed Martin Luther King is false and that there was a conspiracy to assassinate him that involved the FBI and other government agencies. Only those inoculated against the truth can ignore such evidence and continue to believe the official version.
Martin Luther King was a transmitter of a radical non-violent spiritual and political energy so plenipotent that his very existence was a threat to an established order based on institutionalized violence, racism, and economic exploitation. He was a very dangerous man to the U.S. government and all the institutional and deep state forces armed against him.
Revolutionaries are, of course, anathema to the power elites who, with all their might, resist such rebels’ efforts to transform society. If they can’t buy them off, they knock them off. Fifty-three years after King’s assassination, the causes he fought for – civil rights, the end to U.S. wars of aggression, and economic justice for all – remain not only unfulfilled, but have worsened in so many respects.
They will not be resolved until this nation decides to confront the truth of why and by whom he was killed.
For the government that honors Dr. King with a national holiday killed him. This is the suppressed truth behind the highly promoted MLK Day of service. It is what you are not supposed to know.
But it is what we need to know in order to resurrect his spirit in us, so we can carry on his mission and emulate his witness.
 As quoted in James W. Douglass, The Non-Violent Cross, New York, 1968, p. 57
 See “50 Years Ago: Riverside Church and MLK’s Final Year of Experiments With Truth,” David Ratcliffe, rat haus reality press, 4 April 2017
A significant moment in Dr. King’s odyssey occurred on 14 January 1967 when he first saw a photographic essay by William Pepper about the children of Vietnam. Initially, while he hadn’t had a chance to read the text, it was the photographs that stopped him. Bernard Lee, who was present at the time, never forgot Martin King’s shock as he looked at photographs of young napalm victims: “Martin had known about the [Vietnam] war before then, of course, and had spoken out against it. But it was then that he decided to commit himself to oppose it.” The truth force in these photographs led directly to Dr. King’s Riverside Church exhortation in April.
See “The Truth of The Children of Vietnam: A Way of Liberation – How Will We Challenge Militarism, Racism, and Extreme Materialism?, David Ratcliffe, rat haus reality press, 30 November 2017
 Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Case Study, US Senate, Select Committee to Study Governmental Operations with Respect to Intelligence Activities (“Church Committee”), Final Report – Book III: Supplementary Detailed Staff Reports on Intelligence Activities and the Rights of Americans, 23 April 1976, pp. 79-184
 An overview of the trial with links back into the court transcript is “The Martin Luther King Conspiracy Exposed in Memphis,” Jim Douglass, Probe Magazine, Spring 2000. Apart from the courtroom participants, Douglass was one of only two people who attended the entire thirty-day trial.
 See Transcript of the King Family Press Conference on the Martin Luther King Assassination Conspiracy Trial Verdict, Atlanta, Georgia, 9 December 1999
Many thanks to my good friends Dave Ratcliffe and Jim Douglass for all their help.
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1968: The Last Speech of Martin Luther King on the Eve of his Assassination
The last speech he gave in Memphis, Tennessee. That speech is usually called “I’ve Been to the Mountaintop” and, like his other speeches, shows a great oratorical skill.
Just to recall, Martin Luther King was an African-American civil rights activist and Nobel Peace Prize winner in 1964.
In his speech “I’ve Been to the Mountaintop”, the final part is particularly interesting, as it announces his impending death in a somewhat prophetic way. Namely, in that speech Martin Luther King said:
“Like anybody, I would like to live a long life. Longevity has its place. But I’m not concerned about that now. I just want to do God’s will. And He’s allowed me to go up to the mountain. And I’ve looked over. And 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!”
The whole speech was named by the following passage:
“Well, I do not know what will happen now. We’ve got some difficult days ahead. But it really does not matter with me now, because I’ve been to the mountaintop.”