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FBI Considers MLK Shooting Claim

by Ron Word, Associated Press, 3 Apr 2002


JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- The FBI in Florida is looking into claims by a minister that his father, not James Earl Ray, was the triggerman in the 1968 assassination of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.

The Rev. Ronald Denton Wilson, 61, said Wednesday that his father, Henry Clay Wilson, shot King on April 4, 1968. Wilson, whose father died in 1990, said he wanted to "clear my conscience" and could no longer remain silent after 34 years.

Wilson offered no documents, photographs or witnesses to corroborate his story.

FBI agents from Jacksonville interviewed Wilson and his family for three hours early Wednesday to try to determine if his story was credible. "We are taking this very seriously," agent Ron Grenier said.

FBI agent George Bolds in Memphis, Tenn., where King was assassinated, said the bureau knew nothing about Henry Clay Wilson and is not investigating any claims concerning him and the King murder.

John Campbell, an assistant prosecutor in Memphis, handled the state's opposition to Ray's attempts to recant his guilty plea and said he had never heard of Henry Clay Wilson. Campbell said he has no doubts about Ray's guilt.

"James Earl Ray killed Martin Luther King on April 4, 1968, at 6:01 p.m.," he said.

Ray pleaded guilty to shooting King at the Lorraine Motel in Memphis, but he later recanted. He was convicted in 1969 and sentenced to 99 years in prison. He died of liver disease in 1998.

Wilson claimed he was with his father, Henry Clay Wilson, and two other men as they plotted in March 1968 in Gainesville to kill King. The younger Wilson was 27.

Wilson said he could not come forward while his father and the other men were alive. His father died in 1990, and the last of the men died in 1996.

"I'm a minister and I wanted to clear my conscience," he said Wednesday.

Wilson said he saw a rifle and $100,000 cash in a suitcase when his father and the other two men met in Gainesville. Wilson said the men were Ku Klux Klan members and killed King because they believed he was a communist.

Wilson, pastor of New Convenant Church in Graham, north of Gainesville, said his family had been in contact with a publisher in Indiana about a possible book about his father.

A spokeswoman for the Southern Christian Leadership Conference said Martin Luther King III, Martin Luther King Jr.'s son, had no comment.

© 2002 The Associated Press
Reprinted for Fair Use Only.

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