Martin Luther King -- embedded Media ignores killer
In December of 1999, numerous witnesses came forward in court with details of the US Government plot against King.
When Martin headed to Memphis, he knew well the danger, and also knew where he was most needed. He was advised by his closest friends not to go to Memphis, to save himself for an upcoming march on Washington. In his final speech, his words and his face told everyone that he knew he was laying his life on the line. The plot against him had grown thick: he had no choice but to heed his inner voice and continue on as the spirit led him.
On January 15, 2007 Amy Goodman interviewed 2 men who were in Memphis on the day Martin was shot, and they spoke of the dangers they saw in memphis:
COBY SMITH: Much like the program you talked about with looking into bank records. They investigated us all the time. One night, Charles and the guys called up from a club over on South Parkway. They had found Army intelligence officers over there, who had tried to mix in with them, and they had found the guy's ID and identified them as Army intelligence. So we knew that there were people in town, and we had heard -- and incidentally when you were talking to Taylor about the Mountain Top speech -- .I.ve been to the mountain top. -- we had been hearing the comments from community -- our job, our business was to talk to people in the streets. We had heard all kinds of threats against his life, against the lives of everybody around.
AMY GOODMAN: Charles Cabbage, you were driving away from the Lorraine Motel when Dr. King was killed.
CHARLES CABBAGE: Yes. That's the understanding that I have of it. But, you know, like, nobody really thought that they would assassinate Dr. King, a man who stood for nonviolence. The man was a minister. You understand, his whole being was one of peace and harmony. So when the shot broke out, we were loading up our car. And there.s another long story that goes with that, but I am going to try to skip part that you probably want to deal with. And you know, when we were getting ready to pull off, I heard the shot. Well, we all, you know, like, hit the floor for cover. No other shots came. So I just jumped up and raised up and looked around, then pulled off.
By the time I left from the hotel and got to my home, you know, my mother come running out of the house, you know, I mean, crying and everything. And she said, .Dr. King got shot.. Well, see, her reaction was one of tears and sadness and sorrow. Mine was, how long is it going to get them to get here, because, you know, the way that I could see that COINTELPRO was operating here inside of Memphis itself, now that I have done a little research and looked back, was that they wanted to create as much disruption as they could. And they did a pretty good job of it.
AMY GOODMAN: We're going to leave it there. I want to thank you, Taylor Rogers, for being with us, sanitation worker who marched along Dr. Martin Luther King; Charles Cabbage and Coby Smith, both with the black power group, the Invaders, who also marched with King.
archive of the complete interview
The various "intelligence operatives" in Memphis that day were too numerous to ignore: the preponderance of evidence won for the King family a wrongful death lawsuit against a conspirator who owned the restaurant near the Motel where King was shot. The details were reported by Jim Douglas, and are archived at the website of the Fellowship Of Reconcilliation:
The King Trial
by Jim Douglas
The first trial ever held for the assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr. occurred from November 15 to December 8, 1999 in the Memphis Circuit Court of Judge James E. Swearengen. After hearing seventy witnesses in three and one-half weeks of testimony in the wrongful death lawsuit filed by the King family, the twelve jurors (six black and six white) found former Memphis bar-and-grill owner Loyd Jowers guilty of conspiring with "government agencies" to murder Dr. King. At the request of the Kings, whose purpose was not punishment but the truth, the ailing Jowers was fined a symbolic one hundred dollars.to be donated to a Memphis sanitation workers' fund.
This historic trial was so ignored by the media that, apart from the courtroom participants, I was the only person who attended it from beginning to end. What I experienced in that courtroom ranged from inspiration at the courage of the Kings, their lawyer-investigator William F. Pepper, and the witnesses, to amazement at the government's carefully interwoven plot to kill Dr. King. The seriousness with which US intelligence agencies planned the murder of Martin Luther King, Jr. speaks eloquently of the threat Kingian nonviolence represented to the powers that be in the spring of 1968.
At the trial, a series of African-American police officers and firefighters testified how each of them had been pulled from duty in the vicinity of King's room at the Lorraine Motel, and how normal security had been withdrawn from Dr. King in the hours preceding his assassination on April 4, 1968. The Memphis police and fire director responsible for this systematic stripping of King's security was the now-deceased Frank Holloman, a retired FBI agent. During his twenty-five years in the FBI, Holloman had served as head of the Memphis field office and as J. Edgar Hoover's appointments secretary.
Eyewitness testimony from King colleagues and neighborhood observers that the assassin's shot had been fired from a heavy growth of bushes directly across from the Lorraine was provided to the Memphis Police Department (MPD) and the FBI immediately after the event. Yet senior Memphis sanitation official Maynard Stiles testified that MPD Inspector Sam Evans ordered him by phone at 7:00 o'clock on the morning after the assassination to assemble a ground crew and cut down those same bushes, thus sanitizing the crime scene.
Loyd Jowers confessed to Dexter King and former UN Ambassador Andrew Young that at his Jim's Grill, whose back door opened onto the dense bushes, he had acted as a conduit for a rifle and a pay-off of $100,000. A man named Raul brought the rifle in a box the day before the murder. (Raul, who had been James Earl Ray's shepherd, was identified in a passport photo by Jowers and six other witnesses. While dying in jail, Ray had identified the same photo as the Raul he knew.)
Jowers said that seconds after the shot, the still smoking rifle was tossed to him through the back door of Jim's Grill by Lt. Earl Clark, the MPD's best marksman, whom Jowers assumed was the triggerman. In his audiotaped confession, Jowers also said that planning meetings for the assassination had been held at Jim's Grill and included Clark (who died in 1987), undercover MPD officer Marrell McCollough (who would be the first person to reach King's body and is now with the CIA), another police officer, and two men he didn't know but believed were federal agents.
A role in the assassination also emerged for the US Army. Carthel Weeden, captain of the fire station across from the Lorraine, testified that he showed two US Amy officers, who indicated they had cameras, to the roof of his station on the morning of King's assassination. Former CIA operative Jack Terrell, a whistle-blower in the Iran-Contra scandal who is now dying in Florida, testified by videotape that his best friend, J.D. Hill, had confessed shortly before his death to having been a member of an Army sniper team assigned, in a contingency plan, to shoot King on April 4 if the shooter in the bushes failed. Douglas Valentine, author of The Phoenix Program (1990) on the CIA's assassination of thousands of Vietnamese villagers, testified about the redeployment of Phoenix veterans to the Sixties antiwar movement and the King assassination in particular. Two of those intelligence officers, corresponding to the men on the fire station roof, had reportedly photographed the man in the bushes shooting King.
Former US Representative Walter Fauntroy testified that "very sophisticated forces" pressured the King investigation of the House Select Committee on Assassinations, so that it reached its James Earl Ray-as-lone-assassin conclusion "without having looked at all the evidence." In an interview, Rev. Fauntroy told me that after his retirement from Congress, he learned from HSCA files that in the three weeks prior to the assassination, FBI Director Hoover had held a series of meetings with CIA and military intelligence Phoenix operatives. He also learned that such intelligence agents were present in Memphis on April 4.
When the trial was over, David Morphy, the only juror willing to discuss it publicly, said, "We can look back on it and say that we did change history. But that's not why we did it. It was because there was an overwhelming amount of evidence and just too many odd coincidences."
Perhaps the lesson of the King assassination is that our government understands the power of nonviolence better than we do, or better than we want to. As Rev. James Lawson testified, the background necessary for understanding our greatest prophet's murder by his own government was Dr. King's radical opposition to the Vietnam war and his aborted plans for the Poor People's Campaign. King wanted wave after wave of poor people to engage in massive civil disobedience in the nation's capital until the government faced up to the moral imperative of eradicating poverty.
"I have no doubt," Lawson said, "that the government viewed all this seriously enough to plan his assassination."
Thirty-two years after Memphis, we know that the government that now honors Dr. King with a national holiday also killed him. As will once again become evident when the Justice Department releases the findings of its "limited re-investigation" into King's death, the government is continuing its cover-up.just as it continues to do in the closely related murders of John and Robert Kennedy and Malcolm X.
The faithful in a nonviolent movement that hopes to change the distribution of wealth and power in the USA.as Dr. King's vision, if made real, would have done in 1968.should be willing to receive the same kind of reward that King did in Memphis. But as each of our religious traditions has affirmed from the beginning, that recurring story of martyrdom ("witness") is one of ultimate transformation and cosmic good news.
Jim Douglass is the author of numerous books, including The Nonviolent Coming of God. His booklet Compassion and the Unspeakable in the Murders of Martin, Malcolm, JFK and RFK is available from FOR for $2.00. Douglass lives in South Birmingham, Alabama.
It is also a fact that there was a great deal of resistance to the passage of the law that created Martin Luther King Day, and that he was much more valuable as a leader than a martyr. Although protests against racism and the Vietnam war continued, his assasination by those who who benefit monetarily from his absence had a chilling effect on the anti-war and civil rights movements by depriving them of reliable leadership, while their leadership was being actively infiltrated by provocateurs on the payroll of the CIA - a fact that has been proven by declassified documents and the testimony of some of the infiltrators themselves. Here is one account, of many.
The passing of Martin, and knowledge of how and why it was done only makes it more imperative for us to continue in the only way that self-respecting human beings can. Unlike the oppressor, we do not crawl on our bellies in the bushes.
We straighten our spines.
David Roknich -- Editor
On the WEB we can find the truth... over 9000 articles, but there is a
BLACK OUT -- ONLY ONE SINGLE ARTICLE APPEARS IN THE EMBEDDED MEDIA
that mentions JOWERS:
from KOAA - Colorado Springs News, Pueblo News
KOAA-TV is the NBC affiliate for southern Colorado.
It is licensed to Pueblo, and broadcasts on channel 5.
Local investigator uncovered evidence in MLK assassination
Andy Koen -- Colorado Springs - 3 apr 2008
Forty years ago Friday, televisions across the country broadcast the news of the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. On that day, John Billings was a college student in Memphis working at Saint Joseph's Hospital where Dr. King died.
Like many Americans, Billings long believed that King was killed by James Earl Ray, an escaped convict who'd confessed to the shooting. However, later in life, Billings' opinion of the case changed dramatically.
Nearly 20 years after the shooting, Billings was working as a private investigator in Memphis when he was hired by British attorney William Pepper to investigate Ray's case for a mock trial. Ray was never given a criminal trial because of his guilty plea, despite making multiple requests to have that plea revoked. Pepper wanted to use the mock trial to uncover evidence in the shooting that might force an actual trial.
"Kenny and I got the money to do the first real investigation that's ever been done to James Earl Ray," Billings said.
In the course of their investigation, Billings uncovered evidence that suggested Ray played a much smaller role in the assassination than first thought. When the mock trial took place, Ray was acquitted. The trial was well documented and broadcast by HBO. As a result, speculation of a government conspiracy in the assassination became widespread.
"Our whole goal was to someday have a new trial, a real trial, to bring all this out, and of course the state of Tennessee and our government wasn't about to have that," Billings said.
Ray died in prison in 1998 while serving a 99 year sentence. He never received a criminal trial. The following year, the King family won a wrongful death suit against "Loyd Jowers and Other Unknown Co-conspirators" for the 1968 assassination. William Pepper represented the King family and used evidence uncovered by Billings in the case.
In June of 2000, the US Justice Department released .Investigation of Recent Allegations Regarding the Assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Again Billings. evidence is cited.
Billings currently works as a private investigator in Colorado Springs. He's recently been hired to work for the defense in a double homicide case in Pueblo.
1968: Martin Luther King assassination timeline
Friday, April 4, 2008
January: The Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. accepts an invitation from his friend, former Massillonian James Lawson, who was pastoring a church in Memphis, Tenn., to visit on behalf of an economic boycott by the city's black residents.
Feb. 12: 1,300 black sanitation workers go on strike in Memphis.
March 28: King leads a protest of 6,000 people in Memphis on behalf of the workers, who demand to be allowed to unionize and receive equal pay. Violence erupts when some black teenagers loot stores; one 16-year-old is killed, 50 people are injured.
April 3: King delivers his last public speech at the Mason Temple Church of God in Christ in Memphis. It would become known as the "Mountaintop" speech.
April 4: King is shot in the jaw and neck as he stands on the balcony of his room at the Lorraine Motel in Memphis. He dies at at 7:05 p.m.
April 9: King's funeral is held in Atlanta; his hearse is borne by a mule-drawn wagon, symbolizing his empathy for the poor.
April 17: The FBI initially identifies King's suspected assassin as "Eric Starvo Galt," a drifter, dropout and prison escapee whose fingerprints on a rifle found near the scene match those of "James Earl Ray."
June 8: Ray is captured at London's Heathrow Airport using a fake Canadian passport.
March 10, 1969: Ray confesses to killing King, though he recants his confession three days later; he is sentenced to 99 years in prison.
June 10, 1977: Ray escapes from prison, but is recaptured three days later.
Aug. 16, 1978: The U.S. House Select Committee on Assassinations concludes that it was unlikely that Ray acted alone.
Aug 10, 1979: The Revs. Jesse Jackson and James Lawson meet with Ray in prison; they announce that they do not believe he killed King.
Nov. 25, 1991: Ray releases a book denying his guilt, in hopes that his case will be reopened.
March 1997: King's youngest son, Dexter, meets with Ray in prison; Dexter King publicly declares that his family doesn't believe that Ray killed his father.
May 14, 1997: A rifle believed to have been used to kill King is retested, but results are inconclusive.
April 2, 1998: Coretta Scott King calls for new probe into her husband's assassination.
April 23, 1998: James Earl Ray dies.
Dec. 8, 1999: In the case of "Coretta Scott King, Martin Luther King III, Bernice King, Dexter S. King, and Yolanda King vs. Loyd Jowers and Other Unknown Conspirators," a jury in Shelby County, Tenn., finds that Jowers, the city of Memphis, the state of Tennessee, the federal government and others were a party to a conspiracy to kill King.
Oct. 25, 2004: King is posthumously awarded the Congressional Gold Medal. He his widow, Coretta, also receives the award.
Jan 30, 2006: Coretta Scott King dies.
The Atlantic Monthly | May 2002
Lawyers and Lizard-Heads
The prison letters of James Earl Ray
by Douglas Brinkley and Anne Brinkley
The special-collections department of Boston University's Mugar Memorial Library holds more than 83,000 documents pertaining to the life of the Reverend Martin Luther King Jr., who received a doctorate in theology from the university in 1955 and established the King archive with a large donation of materials in 1964. Eighteen months ago Howard Gotlieb, the university's director of special collections, quietly augmented the library's holdings with the prison letters of James Earl Ray, the man widely believed to be King's assassin. Earlier this year we were the first people outside the library to be given an opportunity to examine the Ray letters.
The collection consists of approximately 400 letters that James Earl Ray wrote from 1969 to 1997.mostly to his brother Jerry. Prison regulations forbade him to write letters longer than two pages, so Ray was always succinct. The early letters are handwritten, sometimes with a green ball-point pen; as the years went on, Ray became adept at typing. From his cell at Brushy Mountain State Penitentiary, an hour from Knoxville, and at Tennessee State Prison and the Riverbend Maximum Security Institution, in Nashville, Ray detailed his battles with wardens, police officers, and legal authorities; his views on celebrity and the news media; and his endless maneuverings to promote some self-exculpatory version of the circumstances behind the King assassination.
The Ray collection offers an intimate glimpse into the life of a criminal whose adult years were spent almost entirely behind bars. James Earl Ray was born in 1928 in Alton, Illinois, the first of seven children. His father was an ex-convict; his own career outside the law began at an early age. In 1967, imprisoned for robbing a grocery store, Ray escaped from the Missouri State Penitentiary, in Jefferson City, by hiding in a bread crate. He lived free for a year under numerous aliases in the United States and Canada. On April 4, 1968, Martin Luther King was shot and killed as he stood on the balcony of the Lorraine Motel, in Memphis. Prosecutors contended that Ray fired the fatal shot from the bathroom of a rooming house. He was apprehended at London's Heathrow Airport two months after the assassination.
During the thirty years of his imprisonment Ray often sought to persuade the world that he was a fall guy framed by the FBI or by organized crime. Initially Ray had confessed to killing King; he agreed to a plea bargain and was given a prison sentence of ninety-nine years. Soon after his sentencing, however, he recanted his confession. Much of Ray's correspondence deals with his subsequent efforts to overturn the plea bargain and have his case brought to trial, which the State of Tennessee opposed. The convoluted legal battle continued until Ray's death, in 1998, and ultimately made Ray deeply conversant with the technicalities of the law.
In the following 1972 letter from Ray to Jerry, "Fensterwald" is Bernard Fensterwald, Ray's lawyer at the time, and "J.B." is J. B. Stoner, a Georgia segregationist and lawyer, who would one day be charged with the 1958 bombing of Birmingham's Bethel Street Baptist Church. The letter typifies the way Ray was always playing angles, legal and investigative. "Franks" is most likely Gerold Frank, the author of a 1972 book about the King assassination, An American Death.
That is to bad about the Judge getting sick but maybe he will get allright before to long. The business I wanted you and J.B. to see him about is more important than 1000 talk shows, I can't get any legal relief from talk shows, althoe they might help some ... We should have had the info the Judge was looking into 2 or 3 years ago. Therefore if you and J.B. goes through Chattannoga stop and see him if he is well enought, if he can't do nothing personally he might tell you who to see or, he may have allready found out something. If he can't J.B. suggested something when he was up here, but since I don't want to put it in this letter, I will wait until I see him or you. (The warden told Fensterwald that he may put you back on visiting list)
Fensterwald was here Friday the 21st. and he thinks we have an excellent chance for sueing Franks and others including the Att.Gen. but again we will need the info. I have been telling you about above.
Fensterwald seem's to think everything is going good. The state has about run out of time, of stalling time...
Concluding, I believe every thing legally is about to come to a head, the suit is now in the Tenn.Sup.Ct. and they will have to rule in a couple of months, plus the civil suit will proably force the state to do something.
Not surprisingly, in none of the letters did Ray confess to the murder of Martin Luther King. In none of them did he profess his innocence, either; the outrage of the Wronged Man is missing. Ray's attention was narrowly focused on the legal process, and on getting a trial.
When a committee of the U.S. House of Representatives investigated the King assassination, in 1978, it concluded that Ray had indeed killed King but may have had help. Ray himself eventually claimed that the assassination was orchestrated by a mysterious man named Raoul. A succession of lawyers for Ray.nine in all.struggled over the years to build some sort of case in his behalf. It was not easy: he was an inveterate liar. When he died, of liver failure, at the age of seventy, it seemed that the matter was at an end. But a victory of sorts for Ray occurred within two years of his death, when a Memphis jury came to the conclusion that a government conspiracy was responsible for King's assassination. The jury's decision came in a suit filed by the King family against Loyd Jowers, a retired Memphis entrepreneur who stated on national television in 1993 that he had paid someone other than Ray to murder King. Jowers maintained that he had become involved at the behest of an acquaintance who was employed by the Mafia boss Carlos Marcello, of New Orleans. The jury held Jowers liable in King's death and concluded that unnamed others, including officials of U.S. government agencies, were also implicated in the crime. The King family was awarded $100.the symbolic fee requested in the suit. "In my opinion it had to be a conspiracy," Martin Luther King III has maintained. "It's probably a fact that the intelligence community played a role." Despite such statements, the notion of Ray as an innocent party has not widely taken hold in America. The most respected book on the assassination, Gerald Posner's Killing the Dream (1998), unflinchingly points to Ray as the assassin.
ames Earl Ray and his brothers, Jerry and Jack, epitomized the outlook of a certain kind of hardscrabble white world: a world of blinking ignorance, pathetic bigotry, and cramped horizons. Ray detested the influx of nonwhite foreigners into America. "I suspect if you go to Chicago or any place else right now it will be difficult to find a job," he wrote to Jerry in 1982. "There are so many illegal aliens it is hard to find work." Ray was, of course, a racist, though he tried to depict himself otherwise. As Gerald Posner wrote, Ray had picked fights with black sailors while in Mexico, tried to flee to segregationist Rhodesia after killing King, and refused to be transferred to an integrated honor farm while serving his sentence for robbery. Among his papers is a newspaper clipping that chronicles the rise of the racist politician David Duke in Louisiana. J. B. Stoner, the lawyer for the National States Rights Party, figures prominently in Ray's letters; Stoner's letters to Ray conclude "With Best White Racist Wishes." Stoner was among the first people to defend Ray after King's assassination. Jerry Ray served as Stoner's campaign manager when Stoner ran for governor of Georgia against Jimmy Carter, in 1970, and for many years was his bodyguard and driver. When Stoner was charged with the Birmingham bombing and implicated in others, James Earl Ray lamented in one letter that his friend would come to be known in the press as the "butcher of Birmingham." In a 1982 letter to Jerry he offered some legal advice to pass along to J.B. (His command of the legal process, and of English spelling, had improved considerably during more than a decade in prison.)
In respect to JB's case, I have read numerous cases where the court have dismissed habeas corpus petitions because the petitioner waited too long to file them. The court have held that witnesses have disappeared or died and it was the petitioner responsible to file habeas corpus as soon as he learned of the grounds he could file under. It seem's to me the same would apply when prosecuting. JB could have had witnesses 20 years ago that showed he was not at the scene of the bombing and they could have expired or moved somewhere. If I was him I would be checking into confinement in case his bond is revoked if the sup. ct. denied to hear the appeal. The medical issue is a good one. Sometimes you can get into a medical facility (where usually both nuts & the ill are kept like Springfield), and it is a lot better. Enclosed is a clipping wherein a pervert had his time cut because the judge said prison life would be to stressful.maybe JB could say he was gay and have his sentence suspended?
Ray was conscious of how much law he had picked up. One letter to Stoner ends like this: "When I get out could you use a research assistant? You do the talking and I the rest?"
In his letters from prison James Earl Ray never once wrote a critical word about Martin Luther King (whom he usually referred to simply as "MLK"). He knew that he had no hope of a reversal of fortune if anything disparaging of King or of any other African-American leader escaped from his pen or his lips. He succeeded beyond his expectations in his campaign to persuade civil-rights leaders to embrace his cause. He intuitively understood that he and they had one big thing in common: a visceral distrust of the FBI (which had conducted a systematic campaign of surveillance against King) and an unwillingness to believe its version of anything.
Ray's support in the civil-rights community is astonishing. The Reverend Jesse Jackson wrote an introduction to one of Ray's two autobiographies, Who Killed Martin Luther King? (1992). Dick Gregory co-wrote an investigative book, Zorro (1977), which defended Ray and argued that King had been killed by the FBI. The Reverend Hosea Williams, one of King's closest associates, held a series of news conferences, insisting that Ray had been framed. The usually circumspect Andrew Young, after looking into the case, called it a travesty of justice. The great Gandhian teacher of King, the Reverend James Lawson (the hero of David Halberstam's 1998 book, The Children, a group biography of the leading activists of the Nashville lunch-counter sit-in movement), officiated at Ray's marriage in prison (to a courtroom artist named Anna Sandhu, who later divorced him). In March of 1997 King's son Dexter visited Ray in prison. "I want to ask for the record: Did you kill my father?" the young King asked. "No, I didn't, no, no," Ray replied. To which Dexter responded, "I believe you, and my family believes you, and we will do everything in our power to see you prevail."
There is a letter in the Ray papers from Coretta Scott King to Jerry Ray, on the occasion of James Earl's death, in which she expressed how "deeply saddened" she was by the news. "This tragedy is made even more painful by the fact that your brother was denied his day in court and an opportunity to prove his innocence," she wrote. "We want to assure you, however, that the King family will do everything in our power to press for a full investigation of all new and unexamined evidence which could verify his innocence."
Paranoia suffuses Ray's letters. Ray tried to outfox the authorities by using code names and pseudonyms."John the Baptist," "Holyman".to camouflage identities. He addressed many of his letters to his brother under the alias Jerry W. Ryan. He warned Jerry to beware of undercover cops, who might disguise themselves as Radio Shack repairmen. "The FBI probably has a cover on your mail," he wrote. In another letter, from 1992, he brought up the subject of wiretapping. "Pepper" is William Pepper, Ray's last lawyer; "Jack" is Ray's other brother, always in trouble if not in jail.
Speaking of tapped phones, yours is most likely tapped due to Jack's fugitive status and others things. So what ever you have said to Pepper on the phone, or anyone else that you have phoned or who have phoned you the FBI knows what has been said. I assume you tell Pepper and other callers that your phone is tapped. There is also the possibility that persons who call you phone is tapped. Anyway I would call from a pay phone and even then not say too much. I suspect Pepper is being bugged to find out what he is up too in the law suits & documentary.
Ray's suspiciousness extended to women. He gave Jerry some advice: "You can't trust everyone to far, especially the women type, never let the left hand know what the right is doing." Ray's sense of being beleaguered influenced his views on national politics. He sided with Richard Nixon and Spiro Agnew during their legal and political woes. "Don't criticize Dick & Spiro," he told Jerry. "The public now know that not only the press lies ... but the FBI." He felt that reporters were sometimes out to get him, just as they were out to get Nixon. Once, after an interview in which a photographer took pictures as Ray spoke, Ray expressed regret that he had allowed the photographer to do so.
Anyone should not do this since they sometimes try to get a nut-picture if they are figuring on writing some nonsence. They used to get Nixon's picture with his eyes closed and his mouth gaped open. Anyway from now on I'll let them take the pics. then, the interview.
Ray's correspondence lacks artistry, to put it mildly. This is not Jean Genet's The Thief's Journal or even Jack Henry Abbott's In the Belly of the Beast. Yet Ray at times displayed a feral cunning, and his slang-laden prose offers some of the demented punch of a 1930s crime drama. Money is always "loot," security guards are "pillheads," lawyers are "winos," reporters are "lizard-heads," critics are "stool-pigeons," and prisons are "lock-ups." Sending Jerry, who was living in Georgia, a Christmas letter in 1971, Ray urged his brother to "go light on the moonshine." The details of prison life provide a rich backdrop. On one occasion Ray needed a mirror, no doubt to help him see up and down the corridor from inside his cell. He gave Jerry instructions.
The next time you are at k-mart pick up a dome-mirrow and send it to Anna. They are sometimes used on outside rear view mirrow and come in different sizes. Get one for her about tthe size of a half dollar, or the smallest they have. If you can't find one small don't get any.
Another time he explained to Jerry how to sneak in some basic necessities: "Get a large box of all-bran and open the top and put in the watch you have plus the typewritter ribbon & two batteries for the pen-watch ... If you sent the watch in a small package it would be easy to steal in the mail room plus I like the all-bran."
By and large there is a knowing, tough-guy affectation in Ray's writing.as if he was angling for immortality as a cinematic hillbilly gangster. From the outset he was plainly anxious about his place in history. After the King assassination Ray headed for Canada, once risking arrest by visiting a tavern in Toronto in order to watch the popular television series The F.B.I.; he wanted to see if he had made it onto the most-wanted list. Reading Ray's letters calls to mind such ego-deformed drifters as Don DeLillo's Lee Harvey Oswald, in Libra, and Norman Mailer's Gary Gilmore, in The Executioner's Song. Ray monitored the reputations of infamous contemporaries like Oswald and Jack Ruby.he felt them to be kindred spirits, members of a fraternity of patriotic outsiders who loved America but despised the government. He paid attention to the circumstances of other notorious criminals. "If you should have a pinched nerve can't you get social security disability?" Ray asked Jerry in 1984, adding, "Son-of-Sam was getting it in prison until Reagan cut prisoners off."
He did have a bond with his brothers, and constantly offered them advice from his prison cell. To Jerry in 1986 he wrote, "Probably all thoes habits you have keeps your immune system weak. I'd give up on either the cigs or beer and start running 8 or 10 miles before breakfast every morning, plus join a back-to-nature club." It was the Ray family versus the world. By comparison with Jerry and Jack, Ray was a mastermind. A 1984 letter to Ray offers a glimpse of Jerry and his world view.
I worked nine Straight Nights, twice i put in 13 hours, twice 11 1/2 and the other five night 9 1/2 hours.
I made Two Hundred and Ninty seven dollars for five nights, but after Rabbi Reagan got through taxing me in order to send to Isreal then i took home Two Hundred and Twenty Four Dollars.
Ray urged his brother to try to find some steady kind of work. One suggestion was decidedly odd, given the family's continual run-ins with the law.
If I were you I would try to pick up on a trade, rather than scrubbing floors for ever. That lock smith course is a good one, and easy to learn. They make their money by selling keys & locks. A lock smith get a card from the school he get his diploma from authorizing him to buy blank keys that he uses to make keys to sell.you can't buy a blank unless you have the diploma card. Anyway they buy a blank for a quarter & sell it after grinding it down for 2 or 3 dollars.
Brother Jack was a harder case: "What Jack should do when he gets out is get a tavern, or both of you. However, if he can stay in jail easier than he can get along with customers than he might as well stay where he's at. I should have some loot by the time he get's out."
ames Earl Ray nurtured deeply ambivalent feelings about celebrity in America. He needed to exploit his infamy in order to gain a platform for his legal battles. But media exposure was not something whose tone or direction he could dictate. Whenever Ray was hauled into public, lights and cameras lay in wait. "The only other thing I mite need is a pair of clip on sunglasses," he wrote to Jerry a year after his arrest. "They get those cameras in my face when I come and leave here and you can't even see, If they won't except them at the prison let me know. You can get a pair for 50¢ they slip on over your glasses."
Every reporter in the world, it seemed, wanted an interview with James Earl Ray. Playing cat and mouse with the media became a pastime. Ray liked seeing his name in print but was thin-skinned when reporters wrote "nut-stories" about him. He declared war against Playboy for not buying his convoluted story about the mysterious Raoul, and he wrote "Dear Scumbag" letters to offending journalists. He saw Geraldo Rivera and Tom Brokaw as "government pimps." Of F. Lee Bailey, whom he had tried to retain as his attorney shortly after being arrested, Ray wrote to Jerry in 1983,
I also have a clipping dated 3/29/79 where Bailey told a Memphis audience that I was guilty and did not desrve a trial. This guy is no good and sold out the Boston Strangler and then cooperated with Gerold Frank in Frank's book about the case. He gets out of too many jams not to be a gov. pimp.
In 1986, when Life wanted to publish a story about him, Ray threatened to "punch the photographer in the nose" and then "kick him in the ass"; he had resented an earlier Life article, which misrepresented him (on its cover) as the scowling schoolboy face in an old class photograph. His autobiographies bragged about his various prison escapes and other acts of derring-do. He had stationery printed; the letterhead read "James E. Ray: Author." Convinced that mainstream U.S. journalists were controlled by the FBI, he cultivated media contacts in Argentina, Iran, Poland, Luxembourg, and elsewhere. The following instruction to Jerry is typical:
Phone the West German Embassy in Washington DC and ask for the address of the NATIONAL ZEITUNG newspaper located in MUNCHEN. Also ask for the address of minor political parties with an address in MUNCHEN.
Ray exploited the fact that foreign journalists with an anti-American sensibility had no trouble accepting his story that the White House and the FBI had ordered King's assassination.
Ray read everything about himself he could get his hands on. He kept a nine-inch Philco television set in his prison cell and had Jerry send him a shortwave radio so that he could listen to an all-night white-power radio station. He became his own booking agent, juggling television appearances with skill, and keeping track of the schedules of various journalists. In a 1989 letter he wrote, "I'm not going to see 20/20 until late summer. The producer said there was no hurry & that Barbara Walters was going on vacation from July until late August." He developed working relationships with HBO and the Morton Downey Jr. Show. "I got a letter from a TV magazine called 'Hard Copy' about an interview," he wrote Jerry in 1991. "I'm going to let the publisher handle the interviews since I doubt if he would want to give one to 20/20 & another station at the same time." When television programs did not turn out the way he wanted, he was quick to say so. The anniversary of King's assassination generally prompted retrospective news programs every April. Ray was likely responding to one such program when he wrote, in April of 1991,
In re to the interview of me by NBC-cable, I understand the interview was aired over CNN too, wherein the old Bat Barbara Neven who conducted the interview touted the gov. version of the MLK case. Since most of the MLK homicide records are classified one might ask how she knows so much about the case. In addition to being a zealot what with her ranting here about Iran, Iraq & gun control she apparently had some sort of personal conflict with my brother Jerry Ray while she worked for an Atlanta TV station ... so she is not exactly an impartial operator ...
Concluding, I made a mistake in granting the interview & should have stayed with the foreign media. And while I understand that you are just a mouth-piece for the Scumbag behind the scene, you might tell him not to bother having any more of his pimps, or whores for that matter, phoning down here or asking for interviews.
Ray was mindful of his physical image. He asked Jerry to smuggle "a can of pump hair tonic" into Brushy Mountain, where most aerosol cans were banned, so that he could groom himself for upcoming TV appearances. In 1985 he sent his brother a recent photograph taken of him in prison by a journalist: "The photographer took it of me on the yard when I wasn't looking. They are suppose to get the prisoner's consent but the photographer a crazy acting girl snuck behind the guards to get it. If I had of knew I would have been punching a bag on the yard acting like I was getting in shape."
Parlaying infamy into profit was never far from Ray's mind; he needed money to pay his various lawyers. One scheme was to sell his paintings. "The government gave some guy out in town a grant to sell convicts pictures," Ray wrote to Jerry in 1986. "I'll get about 75$ a piece for two and will send them out early next month." His price soon climbed to $400 apiece. Ray bought boxes of his own books at bulk rate, signed them, and then sold them at jacked-up prices through advertisements in the tabloids. When Jerry suggested that he also take out ads in a Washington, D.C., newspaper, to sell audiotapes he was making about his case, Ray pointed out the realities: "About the ad, the wash. paper has a circulation of about 350,000 while the Enquirer has about 7.000.000 so you don't have to be a mathematician to see more people would read it in the Enquirer."
Ray began keeping track of the value of his signature to determine his ranking in the celebrity hierarchy. He sent Jerry a page from The Price Guide to Autographs that showed his signature to be worth $25 whereas Oral Roberts's went for $10, Diane Sawyer's for $5.00, and Pierre Salinger's for $3.00. His signed photograph fetched $35 more than a photograph signed by Eleanor Roosevelt.
Ray expressed hope that Oliver Stone, whose movie JFK he admired, would make a movie based on his case. "They are trying to have an agent speak with Stone," he wrote to Jerry. "When contacting a producer an agent is required." When Ray was still alive, Stone was at one point in negotiation with William Pepper, Ray's lawyer.
What is startling about the Ray letters is their largely unemotional tone. The central event in Ray's life, the death of Martin Luther King, comes up only in shorthand references, as if Ray had to mention it only because it was germane to his attempts to get a trial. There is no acknowledgment of King as a person, no acknowledgment of the significance of the assassination, no expression of empathy for any person outside Ray's tiny personal circle. Ray's sensibility was narcissistic. He existed in prison, physically apart, but in a late-twentieth-century America that allowed him to sustain a web of activities in the outside world. Ray hired lawyers, filed lawsuits, wrote books, managed money, arranged interviews, ordered supplies. It was a swirling enterprise, directed by and toward himself, and played like an elaborate game. And in a now familiar dynamic, often the outside world played along.
BBC News, Memphis
Martin Luther King's former room at Lorraine Motel feels filled with ghosts
Room 306 in the Lorraine Hotel in Memphis is now part of the Civil Rights Museum in this city.
It has been recreated to show King's last moments before he was shot in the neck by a white racist at 6.01pm on 4 April 1968.
The Dum-dum bullet tore into his neck and then exploded in his chest.
At the moment he was leaning over the railing to talk to his aide, the young Jesse Jackson, who was standing in the car park below. He was telling him to put on a tie for dinner when the single shot rang out. Dr King died on the spot.
Room 306 was left exactly as it was found, frozen in time, crowded with ghosts.
The bed is unmade. There are half-drunk cups of coffee on the table. Room service breakfast hasn't been cleared away. The ashtray is overflowing with cigarette ends.
It is a mundane moment in a far from mundane life interrupted by a bullet.
The untidy room echoes a civil rights campaign that had become increasingly untidy at the time of Dr King's death.
What would the man who has now been dead longer than he was alive make of today's America?
Seeking answers on King's killer
His campaign to end poverty, which was an attempt to bring poor blacks and whites together in a wave of solidarity, was running into bureaucratic obstacles.
There were growing divisions within the civil rights movement about his tactics of peaceful protest, which many younger activists found anodyne and ineffective.
He had presaged his own assassination in a number of speeches and, as soon as news of his death spread around the country, riots erupted in Baltimore, Washington and Chicago which left dozens dead, hundreds injured and thousands arrested.
As Dr King said himself: "We must transform the jangling discord of our nation into a beautiful symphony of brotherhood."
Unfortunately the jangling continues to this day.
By Vincent Dowd
Civil rights leader Martin Luther King was assassinated in Memphis, Tennessee, 40 years ago on 4 April 1968.
A year later, James Earl Ray admitted to being the assassin. Because of that guilty plea there was no full trial. But Ray changed his story almost at once and until his death in prison in 1998 insisted he did not murder Dr King. So was he the killer? And if so, did he work alone?
Martin Luther King was shot on the balcony of the Lorraine Motel
To many, 40 years after his death, Martin Luther King has become a sort of secular saint.
In 1968, many whites in Tennessee saw things differently. He was a rabble-rouser, an agitator, possibly a Communist.
In a society built on open racial divisions, his arrival in Memphis in support of striking black sanitation workers was a source of white anger and resentment.
In that very different America, not everyone was saddened by his death.
Dr King died of a bullet wound to the throat just after 6pm on 4 April. He had been standing on the balcony of the Lorraine Motel, talking to colleagues in the motel parking lot about dinner plans.
Among them, aged 26, was Jesse Jackson - later a candidate for the presidency. At this distance, he can smile with affection recalling Dr King's last words.
"I was coming across the parking lot and he said 'Jesse - you don't have on a tie'. I said the prerequisite for eating was an appetite, not a tie! He said I was crazy and laughed.
"Then he looked at the guy who was with me, (the musician) Ben Branch, and he said 'Ben be sure to play my favourite song tonight - Precious Lord'. And then the bullet hit him in the neck and he was killed instantly."
The official version would later be that James Earl Ray, working alone, had shot Dr King with a rifle from the small bathroom at the rear of the run-down boarding house across the street from the motel.
James Earl Ray confessed to the murder but then changed his story
Jesse Jackson believes that is a partial truth, at best.
"I'm convinced Ray was not the lone shooter. He didn't have the money, the mobility nor the motive to have done it. The fact that James Earl Ray was able to get out of the city and out of the country means he was a hired hand. The government seems to have had the most motive for attacking Dr King."
The official line, never tested in court, remains that Ray was solely responsible for the murder - and initially Ray admitted to that.
He had been a no-account criminal, brought up in poverty in Missouri, who escaped from jail a year before the murder. After the assassination he fled Memphis, escaping to Canada and then London.
He travelled briefly to Lisbon, apparently hoping to arrange contacts with white mercenaries in Africa. He returned to London and was finally arrested at Heathrow trying to board a flight for Brussels.
Those are some of the few incontrovertible facts. A small library of books exists about what may have happened between Ray's jailbreak and his arrest.
Those who insist Ray was indeed the gunman face difficult questions - yet so do those who claim he was not.
There are many such questions. Here are three of the most obvious which each side faces; first, those which his defenders have to answer:
Ray at first admitted to the murder. Isn't that the end of the story?
Author and lawyer William Pepper, now writing his third book about the case, says Ray was poorly advised by his first attorney, the late Percy Foreman. Mr Foreman told his client that unless he pleaded guilty he could face the electric chair (although the state of Tennessee carried out no executions between 1960 and 2000). Ray sought to change his plea within days but was not allowed to do so.
If Ray was innocent, why flee Memphis at all?
Ray always maintained he heard on his car radio that Memphis police were looking for someone resembling him following the assassination. As an escaped convict he could not afford to give himself up.
No one denies Ray bought a gun at least similar to that used in the shooting shortly beforehand. Why did he do so? And why rent a room in the boarding house opposite the Lorraine Motel?
This all touches on Ray's basic defence. He claimed that while on the run he met a man called "Raoul" in Canada who set him up as a patsy. Raoul, claimed Ray, said he wanted him to run guns. The rifle was a sample for potential buyers and the room was rented - using an assumed name - as a potential meeting place. Pepper claims Raoul is alive today and living near New York City. Others have doubted his very existence, suggesting he was invented by Ray to explain away all awkward facts.
On the other side, there are three key points which those who argue Ray was the gunman have to answer: The shot which killed Martin Luther King was highly accurate. Yet Ray, by no means a marksman, is said to have shot at an awkward angle through a half-closed window while standing in a bath-tub.
The author Gerald Posner wrote a book explaining why Ray must be the murderer. Posner says other writers overstate the difficulty of the shot and that Ray had used guns in petty robberies. Ray's lack of gun-skills also raises problems for those who say he may have been the gunman but was employed by others. With so many better marksmen available, why choose Ray?
Ray was a small-time crook. How did he get the money to go to Europe?
Mr Posner, who has researched Ray's life more thoroughly than anyone, is convinced he received no money in advance but may have believed he would receive a large "bounty" afterwards. The author says Ray already had money from dealing in marijuana.
Ray would probably never have been traced were it not for one strange act. On leaving the boarding house, says the official version, he dropped the rifle and other objects traceable to him on the pavement wrapped in a bedspread. Why would an assassin choose to leave behind such evidence?
Mr Posner admits this act is hard to rationalise. He speculates that either Ray saw police cars and panicked or that an accomplice was meant to collect the gun and dispose of it but failed to do so.
Mr Pepper believes this is all part of what he calls "the set-up story".
If anyone other than Ray was involved in the murder - or if Ray was wholly innocent - those responsible are now either dead or reaching the ends of their lives.
Some maintain the truth lies locked in FBI files.
The 40th anniversary of the King murder - and the imminent arrival of a new US president - is prompting them to call for those files to be opened at last.