Martin Luther King, Jr. (January 15, 1929 – April 4, 1968)
was an American clergyman, activist, and leader in the African-American Civil Rights Movement. He is best known for his role in the advancement of civil rights using nonviolent civil disobedience. King has become a national icon in the history of American progressivism.
A Baptist minister, King became a civil rights activist early in his career. He led the 1955Montgomery Bus Boycott and helped found the Southern Christian Leadership Conference(SCLC) in 1957, serving as its first president. With the SCLC, King led an unsuccessful struggle against segregation in Albany, Georgia, in 1962, and organized nonviolent protests in Birmingham, Alabama, that attracted national attention following television news coverage of the brutal police response. King also helped to organize the 1963 March on Washington, where he delivered his "I Have a Dream" speech. There, he established his reputation as one of the greatest orators in American history. He also established his reputation as a radical, and became an object of the Federal Bureau of Investigation's COINTELPRO for the rest of his life. FBI agents investigated him for possible communistties, recorded his extramarital liaisons and reported on them to government officials, and on one occasion, mailed King a threatening anonymous letter that he interpreted as an attempt to make him commit suicide.
On October 14, 1964, King received the Nobel Peace Prize for combating racial inequality through nonviolence. In 1965, he and the SCLC helped to organize the Selma to Montgomery marches and the following year, he took the movement north to Chicago. In the final years of his life, King expanded his focus to include poverty and the Vietnam War, alienating many of his liberal allies with a 1967 speech titled "Beyond Vietnam". King was planning a national occupation of Washington, D.C., called the Poor People's Campaign. King was assassinated on April 4, 1968, in Memphis, Tennessee. His death was followed by riots in many U.S. cities. Allegations that James Earl Ray, the man convicted of killing King, had been framed or acted in concert with government agents persisted for decades after the shooting, and the jury of a 1999 civil trial found Loyd Jowers to be complicit in a conspiracy against King.
King was posthumously awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom and the Congressional Gold Medal. Martin Luther King, Jr. Day was established as a U.S. federal holiday in 1986. Hundreds of streets in the U.S. have been renamed in his honor. Amemorial statue on the National Mall was opened to the public in 2011.
King Assassination Conspiracy Theories
A variety of outlandish conspiracy theories abound, but the evidence still squarely points to James Earl Ray
by Borgna Brunner
For an authoritative exploration of the King assassination, see Killing the Dream: James Earl Ray and the Assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr., by Gerald Posner. For the views of James Earl Ray's attorney, see Orders to Kill: The Truth behind the Murder of Martin Luther King, Jr., by William F. Pepper.
Since Martin Luther King, Jr.'s, assassination 40 years ago, his murder has become endless fodder for conspiracy theorists. Complete with shadowy film noir atmospherics and sensational charges leveled at the highest circles of power, the King conspiracy theories rival the most crazed accounts of Kennedy's assassination.
These theories gained renewed momentum when King's son Dexter met with his father's convicted assassin in prison in 1997. With the blessings of King's widow and the other King children, Dexter King shook James Earl Ray's hand and professed belief in his innocence. A second boost to the legitimacy of the King conspiracy theories came the following year when Attorney General Janet Reno reopened a limited investigation into the assassination in August 1998. And finally, in Dec. 1999, a Memphis jury awarded the King family a symbolic $100 in a wrongful death suit. The jury professed that the murder was indeed a conspiracy involving bar owner Lloyd Jowers (see Conspiracy Theory #4 ) and several "unknown" co-conspirators. Few journalists, scholars, or law enforcement officials familiar with the case have given credence to the new court findings.
In the accepted version of the assassination—one which no credible historian, or federal or state investigation has disputed—James Earl Ray, a career criminal and open racist, murdered Martin Luther King on April 4, 1968. An escaped convict, Ray rented a room in Memphis across from the Lorraine Motel where King was staying while mediating a sanitation workers' strike. Using a rifle with a sniper scope, he shot King from his bathroom window as King stood on the balcony of the motel. The single bullet severed King's spinal cord and killed him.
Witnesses reported seeing Ray fleeing his rooming house moments later. Ray's fingerprints were found on a pair of binoculars and the rifle, which records show he had purchased six days before the shooting. Following a two-month-long manhunt, Ray was arrested at Heathrow Airport after he had robbed a London bank. As he told his first attorney, Percy Foreman, "I thought I could get to [South] Africa and serve two or three years in one of them mercenary armies and those folks over there wouldn't send me back."
To escape facing the possibility of execution, Ray pleaded guilty in March 1969. As a result, a trial was waived and Ray was given a 99-year prison sentence. Even though he had told the judge he understood that a guilty plea could not be appealed, he recanted his confession three days later. Despite many appeals, none of Ray's numerous lawyers ever produced evidence convincing a court of law to reopen the case. A federal investigation in 1977–1978 by the House Select Committee on Assassinations concluded that although "there is a likelihood" that Ray did not act alone in planning the assassination, he alone pulled the trigger.
Until he died in prison on April 23, 1998, Ray maintained his innocence, spinning a series of outlandish, often contradictory conspiracy theories, beginning with the reason he initially confessed to the murder: Ray claimed it was coerced by his lawyer, who was angling for a lucrative movie deal. What follows are some of the more popular conspiracy theories.
Top King Conspiracy Theories
- Theory #1: James Earl Ray | Was James Earl Ray, a career criminal and known racist, nothing more than a patsy for someone even shadier?
- Theory #2: Government | It was the government, the Memphis police, the FBI, and Army intelligence — not to mention the Mafia and the Green Berets.
- Theory #3: Evidence of "Raul" | Donald Wilson, a retired FBI employee, found pieces of paper in Ray's car after the 1968 shooting that had the name "Raul" written on them.
- Theory #4: The Memphis Bar Man | Memphis bar owner Lloyd Jowers did it.
Martin King’s family: share civil trial case that US govt assassinated Martin
Dec. 9, 1999.by Carl Herman
Coretta Scott King: “We have done what we can to reveal the truth, and we now urge you as members of the media, and we call upon elected officials, and other persons of influence to do what they can to share the revelation of this case to the widest possible audience.” – King Family PressConference, Dec. 9, 1999.
After four weeks of testimony and over 70 witnesses in a civil trial in Memphis, Tennessee, twelve jurors reached a unanimous verdict on December 8, 1999 after about an hour of deliberations that Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was assassinated as a result of a conspiracy. In a press statement held the following day in Atlanta, Mrs. Coretta Scott King welcomed the verdict, saying ,
“There is abundant evidence of a major high level conspiracy in the assassination of my husband, Martin Luther King, Jr. And the civil court’s unanimous verdict has validated our belief. I wholeheartedly applaud the verdict of the jury and I feel that justice has been well served in their deliberations. This verdict is not only a great victory for my family, but also a great victory for America. It is a great victory for truth itself. It is important to know that this was a SWIFT verdict, delivered after about an hour of jury deliberation. The jury was clearly convinced by the extensive evidence that was presented during the trial that, in addition to Mr. Jowers, the conspiracy of the Mafia, local, state and federal government agencies, were deeply involved in the assassination of my husband. The jury also affirmed overwhelming evidence that identified someone else, not James Earl Ray, as the shooter, and that Mr. Ray was set up to take the blame. I want to make it clear that my family has no interest in retribution. Instead, our sole concern has been that the full truth of the assassination has been revealed and adjudicated in a court of law… My husband once said, “The moral arc of the universe is long, but it bends toward justice.” To-day, almost 32 years after my husband and the father of my four children was assassinated, I feel that the jury’s verdict clearly affirms this principle. With this faith, we can begin the 21st century and the new millennium with a new spirit of hope and healing.”
KING FAMILY STATEMENT ON MEDIA REQUESTS REGARDING THE MEMPHIS VERDICT
The King family stands firmly behind the civil trial verdict reached by twelve jurors in the Memphis, Tennessee courtroom on December 8, 1999.
An excerpt from remarks made by Mr. Dexter Scott King, Chairman, President, and CEO of The King Center, during the December 9, 1999 press conference regarding the verdict that may be used in support of this family decision:
“We can say that because of the evidence and information obtained in Memphis we believe that this case is over. This is a period in the chapter. We constantly hear reports, which trouble me, that this verdict creates more questions than answers. That is totally false. Anyone who sat in on almost four weeks of testimony, with over seventy witnesses, credible witnesses I might add, from several judges to other very credible witnesses, would know that the truth is here.”
“The question now is, “What will you do with that?” We as a family have done our part. We have carried this mantle for as long as we can carry it. We know what happened. It is on public record. The transcripts will be available; we will make them available on the Web at some point. Any serious researcher who wants to know what happened can find out.
”The King family feels that the jury’s verdict, the transcripts of the conspiracy trial, and the transcripts of the King family’s press conference following the trial — all of which can be found on The King Center’s website — include everything that that family members have to say about the assassination.
Therefore, the King family shares the conviction that there is nothing more to add to their comments on record and will respectfully decline all further requests for comment.
The Assassination of Martin Luther King Jr.
- Complete Transcript of the Martin Luther King, Jr. Assassination Conspiracy Trial, November 15 to December 8, 1999, Memphis, Tennessee | Transcript: William F. Pepper:
- An Act of State – The Execution of Martin Luther King | Talk at Modern Times Bookstore, San Francisco, 4 Feb 2003
- Book Review: The Assassination of Martin Luther King was An Act of State, by David Ratcliffe, 1/20/03
- William Pepper on the MLK Conspiracy Trial, 7 April 2002
- The Martin Luther King Conspiracy Exposed in Memphis, by Jim Douglass, May 2000
- Testimony of William Schaap, MLK Conspiracy Trial Transcript, 11/30/99
- Transcription of the King Family Press Conference on the MLK Assassination Trial Verdict, | 9 December 1999, Atlanta, GA
- The Alleged Murder Weapon In The Assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., | by John Judge, November 2000
- Words of the Peace Makers Marked Them Out For Assassination American University Commencement Address
Martin Luther King speaking at Riverside Church, NYC, 4 April 1967“As I have walked among the desperate, rejected, and angry young men, I have told them that Molotov cocktails and rifles would not solve their problems. I have tried to offer them my deepest compassion while maintaining my conviction that social change comes most meaningfully through nonviolent action. But they asked, and rightly so, "What about Vietnam?"
They asked if our own nation wasn't using massive doses of violence to solve its problems, to bring about the changes it wanted. Their questions hit home, and 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 of violence in the world today: my own government. For the sake of those boys, for the sake of this government, for the sake of the hundreds of thousands trembling under our violence, I cannot be silent....
“A nation that continues year after year to spend more money on military defense than on programs of social uplift is approaching spiritual death....
“War is not the answer. Communism will never be defeated by the use of atomic bombs or nuclear weapons. Let us not join those who shout war and, through their misguided passions, urge the United States to relinquish its participation in the United Nations....
“We can no longer afford to worship the god of hate or bow before the altar of retaliation. The oceans of history are made turbulent by the ever-rising tides of hate. History is cluttered with the wreckage of nations and individuals that pursued this self-defeating path of hate.”