Editor’s note: reproduced with permission of the author. Source: http://www.dissentingviews.com/uploads/4/0/2/4/40249619/themlk10pp-fin.pdf. Additional notes are enclosed within square braces beginning [NOTE:...].
Back in 2009 I entered the fray of deep political publishing with an article called The JFK 10-Point Program, which appeared in CTKA, the former Probe Magazine. I have since written a couple of books about political assassinations, conspiracies, and their social impact, but never did follow-up with the 10-point theme in other essays. Like the earlier essay, I’ve tried to gather certain key points that can be made quickly and easily. My 10-Point Program is as follows:
The “I have a dream” speech occurred on August 28, 1963, at the Lincoln Memorial. It’s a great speech. It’s a unifying vision—a vision of former white racists coming to their senses and marching hand in hand with oppressed black folks for the same purpose.
However, King died on April 4, 1968. Now if you pay attention to what news programs or major books tell you, the emphasis remains on 1963. One problem with this: the King of ’68 is not the King of ’63.
For one thing. President Kennedy was killed in November of 1963. Three months after the March on Washington. In the intervening five years, Lyndon Johnson took over the presidency, the promised action programs were ill-funded because of the war effort, and Vietnam had become our long national nightmare. King didn’t sit still. On April 4, 1967, he delivered an incredible speech, one of the greatest in a career filled with them—that directly talked about the war in Vietnam. His problem was conscience. As he said, “... I knew that I could never again raise my voice against the violence of the oppressed in the ghettos without having first spoken clearly to the greatest purveyor or violence in the world today: my own government.”
If America’s soul becomes totally poisoned,” he warned, “part of the autopsy must read ‘Vietnam.’” He marveled that religious leaders so readily evaded their core convictions to excuse violence. ‘Have they forgotten that my ministry is in obedience to the one who loved his enemies so fully that he died for them?’ he asked.
He called the United States the “greatest purveyor of violence in the world.” The media world reacted negatively—the New York Times, the Washington Post—and so did the government, both inside and out. Lyndon Johnson would no longer be entertaining Dr. King at The White House. Even King’s own coalitions turned against him. The NAACP, ever afraid of upsetting the apple cart, threw in with those who criticized Dr. King.
King had become radicalized. You can hear it yourself.
Exactly one year after giving this speech, to the day, he was killed.
The head of the FBI, J. Edgar Hoover, hated Dr. King. He referred to him as a “tom cat with degenerate sexual urges,” the irony of which I will leave unremarked upon here. In his effort to get what he felt was a Communist threat to America, he unleashed the COINTELPRO operation, part of which was designed to eliminate the threat of a “new black messiah.” The FBI actually sent a letter to MLK urging him to commit suicide.
At first, Lyndon Johnson had attempted to work with Dr. King in his efforts to become the new FDR. However, as Johnson’s programs came to naught due to the continuing escalation in Vietnam, their relationship grew strained. Once again, it was that April 4, 1967 speech that cut their ties completely. LBJ would no longer offer support of King.
Now, besides the institutional threat of the FBI, there were of course local authorities who would have no problem killing King. The South was (and is) riddled with white racists, especially in the police forces, which were happy to assist with the murder.
In order to get into the assassination, we have to set up the story a little bit. In March of 1968, Dr. King had gone to Memphis in order to help with a sanitation workers’ strike. It was considered a step toward his ‘Poor People’s March.’ This march was wildly unpopular in the mainstream press, who considered it dangerous.
The visit was a disaster, as real violence broke out when a gang called the Invaders started a riot. Dr. King was taken away from the scene by his assistants and nearly driven to despair because of its failure. (During the fracas, a black 16-year-old boy named Larry Payne was shot to death by the Memphis police. The police claimed that Payne had tried to kill them with a butcher knife while he was “looting,” a no doubt believable story. It’s a good thing that in our enlightened age, this sort of thing never happens anymore.)
The FBI, thrilled with the catastrophe, produced a story that was then sent out to press services all over the country. The memo the story originated in came from G.C. Moore, Chief of the Racial Intelligence Section, which was sent to William Sullivan, Assistant Director in charge of the Domestic Intelligence Division. The story, which appeared in several newspapers, criticized Dr. King for staying in white hotels:
In other words, the story the FBI put out worked. Dr. King became aware of the article, and he was determined to go back to Memphis and march on behalf of the sanitation workers again. Unfortunately, the FBI also successfully influenced his decision to stay at the Lorraine. The Lorraine Motel was an ideal location for the assassins, in part because across the street was Fire Station Two. The police used it as a command post in the days leading up to the murder.
So let’s just be clear. The FBI, led by J. Edgar Hoover, who already tried to get MLK to kill himself, has a story put out to draw attention to the Lorraine Motel, where—less than a week later—he will be killed. One does not have to be Sherlock to be suspicious.
But it gets better. Because...
4. This is one of the most famous photographs in the world. See the guy crouching over King’s body? At the time, he was an undercover police agent and an informant for the FBI. He later joined the CIA.
In the photo, note the man crouching down, checking King’s vital signs and pointing in the wrong direction. His name is Marrell McCullough.
He was a member of the Invaders, a quasi Black Panther-type group. However, at the time of the murder, he was also working for military intelligence and as an FBI and Memphis police informant.
Later, it turned out that McCullough worked for the CIA. That fact was discovered when Sam Donaldson called him on national television. At the time the showed aired, he told a national audience he had been working for the CIA for 17 years.
Many years after the assassination, an attorney named William Pepper pursued a civil case against a man named Lloyd Jowers. Jowers had run a bar, Jim’s Grill, across the street from the Lorraine Motel and next to Bessie’s Boarding House, where Ray allegedly fired at Dr. King. Jowers gave television interviews implicating himself in the murder. More on this later [NOTE: see Point 10 below], but for now:
So not only was McCullough a known FBI informant at the time of the assassination, he himself confirmed his employment with the CIA.
McCullough, given this history, fits the profile of a classic undercover agent with the King camp, and—given the evidence of the photograph—his most likely role was to confirm MLK’s death.
James Earl Ray was as much of a patsy as Lee Harvey Oswald. Also, like Oswald, his background is more interesting than at first it seems. He was a petty criminal; in and out of jail most of his life, before he got mixed up in the MLK assassination.
Much of the controversy around Ray is concerned with a shadowy figure known as Raul. Ray had started working for Raul in Montreal, Canada, in 1967 and continued for more than a year. After a time, Ray’s movements involved carrying packages, guns and the like for Raul. On Raul’s advice, Ray bought a Remington 30.06 rifle. His brother, Jerry Ray, wrote of the exchange: “The owner of the gun shop where it was purchased said the only person he had ever met with less knowledge about rifles than Ray was the HSCA investigator who came to ask him about it.”
However, it does appear that James Earl Ray did some sort of undercover work for the government as a mole, beginning some twenty years before the assassination. The author Lyndon Barsten made FOIA requests for Ray’s records and received at least four files with the classification of 100—“meaning that they relate to domestic security issues, usually involving Communists.” That is, Ray was used during the period of 1949 to 1952 for some type of anti-Communist undercover work.
There were two big themes underlying the government’s case against James Earl Ray. One is that he was a drug dealer and used methamphetamines. Two is that he was a racist. The author Hampton Sides, in his book on the case, Hellhound on His Trail, made the amphetamine use a special emphasis. He used it to explain both Ray’s alleged violent tendencies and his tendency to go up and down with his weight, which is why several witnesses failed to describe the same person. A desperate ploy in any event, but as Ray’s brother points out: “FBI documents claim that [James Cooper] Green and my brother sold amphetamines together, but this is not true. Although he was an alleged drug dealer, the FBI would hire Green within just a few years; his Memphis FBI file verifies this fact.”
Meanwhile, the House Select Committee on Assassinations (HSCA), which investigated JFK and MLK, looked into the allegations that James Earl Ray was a racist and were unable to substantiate them. Indeed, even the head of the Missouri prison system, where Ray had been incarcerated, denied charges that Ray had been a racist or had financed himself with drug money.
James Earl Ray’s brother, Jerry, states that many of the KKK stories came from George McMillan, a writer whom he suspected of having CIA contacts. He admits lying to McMillan because he didn’t trust him. Researcher Lisa Pease also notes that McMillan pops up in both the JFK and MLK assassinations—including being “one of the earliest post assassination interviewers of George de Morenschildt.” George de Morenschildt was Lee Harvey Oswald’s White Russian handler, who decided to commit suicide right before he was scheduled to talk to the HSCA.
Most recently, in Stuart Wexler and Larry Hancock’s book The Awful Grace of God, the authors attempt to link Ray to the KKK. The book is essentially a string of suppositions tied together without any real evidence, but in any case it misses the point. Ray didn’t shoot Dr. King.
Which leads us to our next point.
If you’ve studied the JFK assassination, you know that one of the biggest problems in the case is the rifle, the Mannlicher-Carcano. It isn’t a high velocity weapon, it was a terrible weapon even on its best day, the sight was misaligned, and it didn’t become the rifle until afterward (it was entered into evidence by the Dallas police as a German Mauser).
So we have a similar situation. The rifle in evidence cannot be the rifle used to shoot Dr. King. We know that because of the government’s own tests. The rifle was tested by the FBI and found that it could not be ruled in as the actual murder weapon. One problem was that the rifle’s sight had not been sighted in. The sight issue was a severe one. The April 5 1968 FBI report stated that the alleged murder weapon could not fire accurately, “firing 3.5 inches to the left and 4 inches below the target.”
In 1997, another ballistics expert, Robert Hathaway, found that the bullet that killed Dr. King did not match the rifle in test firings. Judge Joe Brown, who qualified as a ballistics expert during the trial proceedings, stated that he “had no doubt the rifle in evidence was not the murder weapon.” He also noted that the bore-sighting could not be done by hand, but required a special machine to do it.
In another essay critiquing Hampton Sides’s book, I explained some of the huge problems with trying to pin Ray for the murder. Basically, the case has Ray shooting from this crazy position in a public restroom in a flophouse, after which he runs outside and flings a bunch of incriminating material, including the murder weapon, on the ground before running off. These details can be found here.
Assuming Ray was the shooter for a moment, there is also the peculiar fact that he didn’t fire at King the first time he came out onto the balcony. Instead, he waited for him to appear the second time. Why would he wait? How did he know King would come out again? And how would he continue to hold off people in the bathroom this whole time?
Once MLK was shot, Ray allegedly runs out of the bathroom and has to make his escape. So what does he do? The same thing anyone would do in this situation, obviously: He throws a bundle of items in front of a grocery store (Canipe’s), including the murder weapon. But he did not just leave the rifle at the scene of the crime. He also left his radio, which had his prison number from Missouri scratched into it. That’s pretty bad—perhaps even worse than Lee Oswald throwing his wallet on the ground after shooting a police officer. Why are these assassins conveniently tossing incriminating evidence on the floor? How inept are these guys?
More problematically, the store owner Guy Canipe said that the bundle was dropped ten minutes before Memphis Police arrived at the scene.
But as always, it gets worse. Ray took off (in one of two white mustangs—that’s another story) while a radio broadcast gave incorrect information presumably to aid his escape.
He leads the FBI on wild goose chase for a little over two months, traveling first south into Georgia before going back north into Canada. He then takes a flight to London, then Portugal, then finally back to London. As researcher Phil Melanson found, Ray had the aid of four identities, which all resembled him, matched roughly his age and lived within two miles of each other. How is this possible to obtain, for a petty crook, in 1968?
James Earl Ray, as he entered Canada in July of 1967, began to use the Eric Stavro Galt alias he had acquired. His attorney, William Pepper, received documents showing who the real Eric S. Galt was. As he relates:
Coincidence is being stretched pretty thin at this point, particularly since Ray is somehow doing this with no money. In point of fact, Ray was never captured by the FBI. He was apprehended by Scotland Yard, after flying to England! Who was paying for all this? If your answer is white extremists (like the authors of The Awful Grace of God), where did these extremists acquire the James Bond-like ability to manufacture four perfect sets of identities?
Ray says it’s this mysterious Raul. More on him in a bit.
When Ray was brought back to the United States to face trial, he had a local attorney. However, a big shot attorney, Percy Foreman, met with Ray on November 10, 1968. According to Ray, he told him he could arrange for book contracts to net him money. He also agreed to pay Foreman $150,000 for his services. Foreman told Ray’s brother Jerry that he would easily get him set free.
Foreman abruptly changed his tune in early 1969. He told Ray that the death penalty would be inevitable without a guilty plea, and that the family history of criminality would be used against him. The judge (Preston Battle) refused to let Ray get a new lawyer, and he felt compelled to agree to a guilty plea, although at his hearing he said that he “didn’t agree with the theories or Mr. [Attorney General Ramsey] Clark and Mr. Hoover.” A couple of days later, realizing his lawyer said nothing in his defense, he asked the court to reject his guilty plea. When attorney William Pepper looked at the transcript, he also noted that Judge Battle had failed to have Ray sworn in.
There is more—much more—including Judge Battle getting ready to hear Ray’s appeal before dying of a heart attack alone in his chambers, and later the Tennessee State Supreme Court removing Judge Joe Brown at the moment he appeared to be willing to give Ray a fair trial. Brown, for his part, as a ballistics expert, realized there were problems in the state’s case regarding the alleged murder weapon.
If you still believe in honest journalism and a government that doesn’t rely on blatant propaganda, this may be troubling. Government documents prove that the FBI approved of author Gerold Frank to write the book about the King murder. The Assistant Director of the FBI, Cartha DeLoach, sent a memo to Hoover’s close friend Clyde Tolson, which read:
Cartha DeLoach, the very next day, suggested Gerold Frank, writing that “We have nothing derogatory about him in our files, and our relationship with him has been excellent.”
The book Frank produced, An American Death, finds Ray guilty of the crime, as one might imagine. However, just to make absolutely sure, Gerald Posner was trotted out to write Killing the Dream, another Ray-did-it book. Posner, of course, wrote the infamous JFK book Case Closed, and has lately descended into a serious of scandals including plagiarism and an attempt to defraud To Kill a Mockingbird author Harper Lee.
(Note: Wexler and Hancock, the authors of The Awfid Grace of God rely heavily on Frank’s work, despite its FBI-inspired origins, as well as George McMillan, whom we’ve already met, and also William Bradford Huie, another purveyor of fraud, to produce their volume. See Martin Hay’s otherwise much-too-kind review.)
Dexter King, the son of Martin Luther King, agreed to meet Ray in his prison cell. They had a conversation. At the end of that conversation, Dexter told Ray that he believed James Earl Ray was telling the truth when he said he didn’t kill Dexter’s father.
When William Pepper took over as James Earl Ray’s attorney, he began to beat the bushes looking for witnesses. A man named Lloyd Jowers got wind of this and started to fear that he might be jailed. He thought this because he was involved in the actual plot to kill Martin Luther King.
More to the point, he said it wasn’t James Earl Ray. After Ray died from hepatitis after he was stabbed in prison, Pepper went to the King family to suggest they pursue a civil trial against Jowers. Coretta gave the final word, and the family agreed to do this. They sued Jowers for $1.
They won. The jury came back stating that they felt Jowers was 30% responsible with 70% to other unknown parties—not James Earl Ray.
[NOTE: The trial was held in Memphis, Tennessee from November 15 to December 8, 1999. While a complete hyper-text transcript of the Martin Luther King, Jr. Assassination Conspiracy Trial is available online, well-and-away a majority of people in the United States have never heard of this legal proceeding. As James Douglass (one of only two people who attended the entire trail) wrote in “The Martin Luther King Conspiracy Exposed in Memphis”: “Barbara Reis, U.S. correspondent for the Lisbon daily Publico who was there several days, turned to me and said, ‘Everything in the U.S. is the trial of the century. O.J. Simpson’s trial was the trial of the century. Clinton’s trial was the trial of the century. But this is the trial of the century, and who’s here?’”]
Several fascinating things came out in the trial. For one thing, Jowers lent support to Ray’s story about Raul. Jowers picked out Raul in a photo spread presented by police as “the man who gave him the murder weapon.” In other words, Jowers admitted to being given the murder weapon to keep for a while before the shooting, and that this person matched the photo of Raul.
However, perhaps the most explosive revelation during the trial was the testimony of King’s friend, the Reverend Billy Kyles, who was up with MLK on the balcony when he was shot. Kyles stated, in court, that he “moved away so he could have a clear shot.” The government’s report on the matter dealt with his statement this way:
The media predictably buried the trial result. The only reporter to stay for testimony every day during that trial was James Douglass, who was covering the event for Probe Magazine. Douglass, the author of the brilliant JFK and the Unspeakable, is working on an MLK book now. One hopes it will be as definitive as his earlier effort.
However, the Reverend Billy Kyles was not the only snake in Dr. King’s camp. Someone from within his camp made the phone call which moved the hotel room at the Lorraine from one facing a courtyard to the one with the balcony where King would be available to be shot. Additionally, after King died, Jesse Jackson puts his hands in King’s blood and wiped them all over his shirt. “This is Martin’s precious blood. This blood was shed for us,” he said. The next morning, Jackson appeared on NBC Today television still wearing the bloody shirt. Magazine articles in TIME and elsewhere proclaimed that Jesse Jackson would inherit Dr. King’s mantle; in fact. King had neither liked nor particularly trusted the ambitious Jackson.
After King’s death, his other attendants were unable to hold a coalition together. James Bevel, one of King’s attendants, eventually joined the extremist Lyndon LaRouche organization. Ralph Abernathy would support Ronald Reagan’s 1980 presidential campaign and be subsequently ignored when Reagan won.
As with the murder of JFK, the assassination of Dr. King forever changed our country. It sent us in a darker direction, one apparent all around us. The last few months has seen an explosion of police state terror against black men and our media outlets continually try to put the best possible spin on the situation—as if this isn’t the legacy of institutional racism rearing its head once more. What he would have made of our technologically superior but spiritually inane civilization I do not know, but I wish his voice were still amidst us now.
Note: In a short article, there are inevitably some details left out to further explore the story. I suggest using the sources listed below for more information, especially about certain witnesses I did not mention for space considerations and the military intelligence aspect of the case.
Branch, Taylor, The King Years: Historic Moments in the Civil Rights Movement (Simon & Schuster: NY 2013).
DiEugenio, James, and Lisa Pease, ed., The Assassinations (Feral House: Los Angeles CA 2003).
Frady, Marshall, Martin Luther King, Jr.: A Life (Penguin: NY 2002).
Lane, Mark, and Dick Gregory, Murder in Memphis: The FBI and the Assassination of Martin Luther King (Thunder’s Mouth Press: NY 1993).
Melanson, Phil, The MURKIN Conspiracy (Prager Press: NY 1989).
Pepper, William, An Act of State: The Execution of Martin Luther King (Verso: London 2003).
Ray, Jerry, with Tamara Carter, A Memoir of Injustice: by the Youngest Brother of James Earl Ray, Alleged Assassin of Martin Luther King (Trineday: Waterville OR 2011).
Ray, John Larry, and Lyndon Barsten, Truth at Last: The Untold Story of James Earl Ray and the Assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr. (The Lyons Press: CT 2008).
Russell, Dick, Black Genius and the American Experience (Carroll & Graf: NY 1998).