In honor of this occasion, we’re posting the most ubiquitous MLK assassination conspiracies. What’s true? What’s not? Judge for yourself. One thing seems certain, though — that “accepted” record of events has more fiction in it than your average episode of House.
The convicted killer, James Earl Ray, was a career criminal. He pulled off many successful crimes and engineered two prison escapes —hardly the signs of a dull-witted hick. His racism was brutal —a friend quoted him as saying: “We ought to kill them [black people], kill them all.”
When offered a transfer to a prison farm, he declined because the dormitories were racially integrated. When he was arrested for King’s murder, he was on his way to South Africa, then under apartheid, hoping to become a mercenary.
As NAACP President Julian Bond commented a few years ago, “the problem is, we have trouble believing that a no-account, stumbled-down bum of a convict like Ray could kill such a remarkable person like King. But he did.”
But did he? That’s what these theories hope to explore. Because these are all well-known theories, we’re not really claiming to be saying anything new here, we just thought it would be fun to collect them all in one place.
Here we go:
It was Raul, a mysterious underworld figure
Ray said he was framed by a shady character named Raul, who he was involved with in smuggling. Ray never learned Raul’s last name, or even what it was he was smuggling, but when Raul told him to buy a rifle and check into a certain rooming house in Memphis, Ray (that genius) simply did so, no questions asked. When Raul arrived, Ray handed the rifle over to him and left, never to see Raul again.
In another version Ray says he waited in the car, heard a shot, and then Raul ran out and jumped into the car.
But this mysterious Raul never materialized… until conspiracy investigators rounded one up, in 1994 accusing a retired auto worker from upstate New York, whom Ray recognized from a photo.
The man was cleared of any involvement, but said: “They have turned my life upside down… When Dexter King said that I had been found, my wife and I were shocked. This will never end for me, I fear… Doesn’t the truth matter anymore in this country?”
The government did it. And so did the Memphis police, the FBI, Army intelligence, the Mafia, the Green Berets…
Ray’s lawyer, William Pepper, claims that the U.S. government hired a Mafia hit man to kill King. Green Beret snipers hid nearby as back up, in case the Mafia hit man missed. But wait, there’s more: supposedly the CIA, the Memphis police, the FBI, and Army intelligence were also involved. In Pepper’s 1995 book, Orders to Kill: The Truth Behind the Murder of Martin Luther King, he says the commando in charge of the Green Beret snipers, Billy Eidson, was killed off to keep the plot secret.
However, Pepper’s one of those who gives Conspiracy Investigators a bad name. A military cablegram he produced was declared a forgery, and Green Beret Billy Eidson was found to be alive and well — and furious — at the allegations that he was involved in the assassination. But the paperback version of Pepper’s book was still published. In fact, it hit the stores the same month that Ray died, providing it with free added publicity.
Despite off of this seemingly obvious fakery, Pepper somehow managed to convince the King family that they’re true! On ABC’s Turning Point, on June 19, 1997 —the same segment that systematically disproved the key elements of Pepper’s story— Coretta Scott King and several of the King children announced their belief in Ray’s innocence and the existence of a government plot.
In 1998, Donald Wilson, a retired FBI employee, said he found pieces of paper in Ray’s car after the shooting with the name “Raul” written on them. Here’s the weird part, thought — he took this evidence home and stored it in his refrigerator for thirty years. Why? Was he worried he’d be fired? Killed? Was it just one of those things were you accidentally put something away in the fridge and forget about it… combined with someone who REALLY didn’t clean his house?
The FBI claims Wilson was not part of the search team and that his evidence is “total fabrication.”
The Bar Man
Memphis bar owner Lloyd Jowers ran Jim’s Grill in 1968, a bar located across the street from the Lorraine Motel. In 1993 he revealed that a Memphis produce dealer, Frank Liberto (now dead — of course), gave him $100,000 to hire a hit man to murder King — and the killer he hired wasn’t Ray.
Memphis District Attorney General Bill Gibbons investigated this claim and reported that he could find no evidence Jowers had any involvement in the murder. ABC’s Primetime Live broke Jowers’s story in 1993; in 1998 the same show denounced Jowers as a fraud. Maybe the real story here is why ABC is getting these stories instead of the other networks…
Next time we’ll be back to current events thanks to new info from you Constant Readers out there!
New CIs always wanted — contact us!