The F.B.I.

's Role

J.Edgar Hoover

J. Edgar Hoover hated Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Hoover wasn’t necessarily a racist; he hated anybody who challenged his almost omnipotent power over the American justice system. Hoover didn’t like civil rights leaders, he didn’t like antiwar protesters, he didn’t like social activists and he especially didn’t like commies. And if you were part of the FBI in the 1960s, then you had better think the same way. J. Edgar Hoover didn’t like inaction, either. If he didn’t like you, he didn’t just sit around and stew about it, he did something about it. So, when men like Jesse Jackson and Andrew Young said the government was part of a conspiracy to murder King, the government they were talking about was the one run by J. Edgar Hoover. King first came under scrutiny in 1961 when Hoover asked a subordinate for the department’s file on the civil rights leader. In a memo to his supervisor, Agent G.H. Scatterday mentions King briefly: “King thanked Socialist Workers Party for support of bus boycott.” Scatterday’s report goes on to say King “was not investigated by the FBI” to which J. Edgar Hoover is reported to have asked “why not?” When Hoover asked why not, his subordinates got the point and a file was opened on King. An unclassified memorandum sent up the chain of command and now available in the FBI’s Freedom of Information Act reading room shows someone has highlighted King’s name on Scatterday’s memo and written “Do we have more details?” Under the direction of Attorney General Robert Kennedy, the FBI stepped up its observation of King in 1962 and 1963. Kennedy at one time asked the FBI to develop a plan for covert bugging and electronic surveillance, but later backed down and told the FBI to stop its activities toward King. At the time, Kennedy was concerned about King’s ties to the communists and socialists who were actively trying to recruit the American under classes. King himself reportedly attended a Communist Party education program and gave the closing address at one seminar in the 1950s.

Robert Kennedy

Without Kennedy’s knowledge, the FBI began an illegal counterintelligence program regarding King and the SCLC. “The program was intended to discredit and neutralize the civil rights leader," the FBI post-assassination report said. Hoover was greatly afraid of communists and was convinced that the reds were attempting to “infiltrate” black society to woo them to the communist side. Having watched Castro – who exhibited no communist leanings while he led his revolution – Hoover was determined not be fooled again when his advisors reported that communist attempts to win support among blacks were met with failure. Stung by Hoover’s ire over botching the Castro takeover of Cuba, FBI underlings began to step-up their activities regarding King and the SCLC. Hoover himself never wavered in his belief that King was a communist, but he refused to allow his agency to act solely on his belief. At first, his subordinates told him that communists did not control the civil rights movement and Hoover said they were wrong. The aides quickly reversed course and said, the boss was right; King was a communist. But Hoover dismissed the claim because no one had provided proof. The only alternative, the deputy directors felt, was to beef up surveillance of King to find the dirt Hoover believed to his core to be there. In 1963, Hoover requested for a second time permission to bug King’s residence and offices. This time, Bobby Kennedy agreed, with the caveat that the bugs would be removed by the end of the year if no concrete evidence of communist infiltration was found. With the assassination of his brother, Bobby forgot all about the bugs and Hoover declined to remind his boss. The bugs remained in place and under observation. A month before John Kennedy’s murder, the report based on this increased surveillance was presented to J. Edgar Hoover. “The attached analysis of Communism and the Negro Movement is highly explosive,” wrote Assistant to the Director A.H. Belmont. “It can be regarded as a personal attack on Martin Luther King. There is no doubt it will have a heavy impact on the Attorney General and anyone else to whom we disseminate it. It is labeled TOP SECRET.” On his personal copy of the memorandum, Hoover wrote: “I am glad that at last you recognize that there exists such influence.” Sparks began to fly between Hoover and King personally in 1962. Interestingly, it was King who threw the first punch by publicly questioning the FBI’s handling of a racial incident in Albany, Georgia. Hoover shot back by testifying before a Congressional committee on his belief that communists had infiltrated and were directing the civil rights movement. King responded to this allegation by accusing Hoover of fanning the flames

of racism and placating right-wing reactionaries. Later, Hoover told a group of reporters that King was “the most notorious liar in the country.” King and Hoover reached a fragile truce in late 1964 after they met face-toface in an attempt to iron out differences. About this meeting, Hoover told underlings “he had taken the ball away from King at the beginning.” For his part, King apologized for remarks he had made and thanked Hoover for the work the FBI was doing to investigate civil rights violations. The cease-fire lasted just two weeks. On December 14, 1964, the Southern Christian Educational Fund repeated King’s criticisms of Hoover and called upon supporters to write President Johnson to have the president fire Hoover. The mudslinging continued over the years, including one episode where Hoover met with an Atlanta official in Washington for President Johnson’s inauguration. Hoover leaked unflattering details of King’s personal life obtained through wiretaps to this official, who returned to Atlanta and passed them on to Dr. Martin Luther King Sr., who then confronted his son. While King was sparring with the FBI and gradually shifting his focus from civil rights to a more general human rights/anti-war perspective, James Earl Ray was maintaining a low profile and slowly working his way north toward Canada. His escape from the Missouri prison caused little concern and resulted in almost no news. Wanted posters were printed with Ray’s prison mug shots, but the first press run included the wrong fingerprints – something that gives conspiracy theorists fuel for their fires. A reward was offered for his return: $50.

FBI Wanted poster

Ray managed to get a number of menial jobs on his journey north and his employers remember him as a hard worker and nice person. Most were shocked to find later the man they hired was wanted for murdering Martin Luther King Jr. James, who had always been something of a miser, managed to put together a decent nest egg through hard work,

saving and petty robbery. His goal in crossing the border to Canada was to get a Canadian passport and get a job onboard a ship. Once he was abroad, he planned to jump ship and start a new life somewhere else. Just where that somewhere was, he didn’t know and didn’t care. He believed that in order to get a Canadian passport he had to find a rube that would be willing to swear they had known him for at least two years.

James Earl Ray, 1967, FBI

In a beat-up Plymouth he purchased for a couple hundred in cash, Ray crossed the border to Canada in July 1967 at Detroit and headed from Windsor to Montreal, where many foreigners were on hand for an international expo. On the way to Montreal Ray first used the name Eric S. Galt, which he claimed he made up after seeing a road sign for the town of Galt along Highway 401. However, an Eric S. Galt lived at that time in Montreal and bore at best a superficial resemblance to Ray. How Ray came to choose the name Galt is important to many conspiracy theorists. They suppose that someone who knew Galt or at least knew he existed assisted Ray’s escape to Canada and financed his stay there. William Bradford Huie, the man who pioneered the practice of checkbook journalism and paid James Earl Ray $40,000 to tell him “the truth” about the assassination, offers a more rational explanation: “(He) saw the name Galt on exit markers and chose it as a surname. When he stopped for the night of July 16 at a Toronto motel, he looked through the Galts in the telephone directory…he chose ‘Eric S.’” There has never been any indication that the real Eric S. Galt had ever heard of or seen James Earl Ray before that fateful day in April. Ray himself offers this advice on picking an alias: “I’ve used many different names, but picking a new one is never easy. I can’t afford to pick something easy like Smith or Brown or Jones, because I might forget who I was if somebody suddenly asks me. My name has to be unusual so it’ll stick in my memory and I’ll always know who I am.” Montreal is a large port on the St. Lawrence Seaway and Ray spent a good deal of time near the waterfront trying to earn a union card to get a shipboard job. Without the passport, he couldn’t get the union card and without the union card, he would never get on board a ship. His attempts to get a woman to vouch for him with immigration authorities were unsuccessful and in a couple of weeks his cash reserve began to dwindle. Ray told Huie he never intended to go back to the United States, but in need of money, he began to let it be known in some of the seedier waterfront bars that he had been in trouble in the States and that for a fee, he was willing to undertake low-risk “jobs.”

According to Ray, his hints paid off. “One afternoon, I stopped by (the Neptune Tavern) and met an individual who seemed to be in his mid-30s,” Ray wrote in his autobiography. “He was about 5’-8’’, weighed 140 pounds or so and had slightly wavy red hair that might have been the result of a dye job. He sat down at my table, ordered a drink and made small talk in what sounded to me like a Spanish accent, then introduced himself as ‘Raoul.’ He never mentioned his last name. I figured if he wanted me to know it, he’d tell me and I didn’t press the matter.” Raoul and Ray sized each other up over the next few days, trying to smoke out the other’s real purpose and once trust was established, they struck a deal. In return for a smuggling job, Raoul would procure travel papers for James Ray. Raoul told James he had a couple of small packages that he needed to get to Mexico. If Ray would get the packages across the border to the U.S., Raoul would take them to Mobile, Alabama where the pair would meet once again. Together they would drive to the Mexican border and repeat the process. Ray agreed to the plan, except he recommended that they meet not in Mobile, on the Gulf of Mexico, but in Birmingham, several hours north of Mobile in central Alabama. Raoul agreed to this amendment, Ray claims. “It didn’t matter to me,” Ray wrote. “I wasn’t going to set foot in either place.” He planned to cross the border with the contraband and then head back across with his new Canadian identity. The trip across the border was uneventful, according to Ray. The pair drove to Windsor and separated prior to reaching the Customs area. Raoul took a cab across the mile-long river border. Ray drove his Plymouth through the Ambassador tunnel with two packages in red wrapping hidden behind the seats in the rear of the car. In his book he claims that the car was subjected to a limited search, but no contraband was found. According to Ray, the first officer who searched the car was pulled off the job before finishing. “Just before he reached the back seat a second officer came up and told the first that he’d complete the search,” Ray claims. “The first inspector walked away. The second abruptly ended the search.” In Detroit, Raoul and Ray reunited where the mysterious Latino took possession of the two brick-sized packages. Ray was ready to get his passport and ditch Raoul, but the man confessed trouble getting the false papers. Raoul placated the angry Ray by giving him “a stack of cash” and promising him the papers once they reached Alabama. They split up and Ray headed toward Birmingham. There are several elements of truth in the story told by James Earl Ray to William Huie – who believed Ray killed King and acted alone. Huie was able to prove that Ray did work his way north from Missouri to Detroit, and that he accumulated a remarkably good set of references. Huie also proved that Ray did cross into Canada, did spend time in Montreal and eventually returned to the United States. Huie also confirms that a popular form of smuggling in the late 1960s involved bandits who teamed with Americans and smuggled drugs or other contraband into the U.S. and met their accomplices across the border after

crossing in a cab. Huie was never able to find anyone who could finger Raoul. But as an escaped convict who had made it safely across the Canadian border, James Earl Ray would have to have a damned good reason to cross back into the United States and risk being stopped at immigration. Smuggling was about as good a reason as any, Huie reasoned. Down South Of his own accord or as part of a grand plan whose architect remained a mystery to him, Ray traveled to Birmingham, Alabama and – at least for him – put down roots. After stopping to see his brother in Chicago, who reported that no one had been looking for him, James turned up in Birmingham. According to his explanation of events, he went to the Birmingham post office as Eric S. Galt and claimed a letter that Raoul had sent to him care of general delivery. In the letter, Raoul instructed James to meet him at the Starlight Bar, which Ray did. “We need a good set of wheels,” Raoul told Ray. “But I don’t want to spend more than a couple thousand dollars.” Raoul instructed Ray, whose tastes ran more toward $200 junkers to find a suitable car. After his arrest, Ray gave Huie great details about how he managed to establish an identity in Birmingham as Eric Galt. Ray was able to demonstrate to a Birmingham bank that he needed a safe deposit box and rented one in the name of Eric S. Galt. In the box he dropped the cash Raoul had given him, identity papers and other items he didn’t want on his person and set out to find a car. He found a nice 1966 pale yellow Mustang for sale at the right price: $1,995. Ray paid cash for the car. He claimed the cash came from Raoul. Hindsight showed James Earl Ray that he became involved in a plot to kill King when he agreed to drive the packages across the Canadian border. He became further enmeshed when he acquiesced to traveling to Birmingham. “No one would have given me $3,000 in Birmingham just to haul narcotics across the border,” Ray wrote to Huie. “But nobody told me about any planned murder of King or anyone else.” To this claim, Huie mused: “I find it difficult to believe that any accomplice of Ray’s in smuggling narcotics from Windsor to Detroit in August 1967 was planning to murder Dr. King in April 1968. And what criminal would have brought a car for Ray on August 20, 1967, for him to use in fleeing a murder scene on April 4, 1968?” There is another explanation for how an escaped armed robber could end up in Birmingham, Alabama with about $3,000 in cash. Ray admitted receiving $750 from Raoul. He had $300 saved up when he broke out, and had earned more than $650 as a dishwasher during his time on the lam. He also admitted to a $1,700 armed robbery in Montreal. In August 1967 James Earl Ray was in Birmingham with about $3,400 cash. How would a prisoner save up $300 in cash while incarcerated? Gerald Posner, author of Killing the Dream: James Earl Ray and the Assassination of Martin Luther King Jr. has

unearthed evidence that Ray was an amphetamine dealer in prison, as well as a bennie addict. This would explain Ray’s psychosis in 1966, Posner adds. While in Birmingham, Ray claims Raoul ordered him to purchase some 8mm movie equipment through the mail, which Ray did. Correspondence between Ray and the camera company shows that a Super 8mm camera, projector, editing machine and a 20foot remote control cable were sent to Ray during the month of September 1967. Ray was apparently unsatisfied with the camera and returned it. He asked for a refund to be sent to Puerto Vallarta, Mexico. Ray also purchased a $245 Polaroid camera at the same time. Initially after his capture, Ray denied knowing why the camera equipment was purchased. He stuck to his story that Raoul wanted the equipment for some mysterious purpose, but Huie offers another reason: “Ray enjoys only one game: Cops and Robbers,” he wrote. “With himself as the elusive robber…pursued by the stupid cops…He told me the law had very poor pictures of him, that he looked much younger than he actually was, and that therefore, when the FBI put out a wanted poster on him, using a poor picture and saying he was born in 1928, ‘nobody could recognize me from the poster…’” Ray expected the FBI to put him on the 10 Most Wanted List while he was in Birmingham, but “prior to April 4, 1968, James Earl Ray was regarded by the FBI as one of the least likely ever to be elevated to the elite list of the Ten Most Wanted Criminals,” Huie wrote. He spent hours posing before his movie camera, Ray told Huie, and taking photos of himself and mailing them out to "lonely hearts" clubs in an effort to throw off the FBI. Posner offers a more likely explanation for why Ray would buy the high-quality equipment. James had already talked to his brother Jerry about getting into the lucrative but still very underground porn business. Records showed Ray purchased a chemical compound that could allegedly turn a piece of glass into a two-way mirror through which he could surreptitiously film women. In the fall of 1967, Ray said Raoul contacted him in Birmingham and ordered him to New Orleans and then into Mexico on another smuggling job. This time the packages were kept in a spare tire which Raoul transported from car to car, but the method was similar to the Canadian border crossing: Ray drove the car and contraband, Raoul took a cab across the border. Again Ray hints at some complicity among the border guards, to whom he paid $4 each.

James Earl Ray, 1968

Ray spent a leisurely month in Mexico, near Acapulco and Puerto Vallarta, before heading north to Los Angeles California, where he settled down for five months. During that time, he enrolled in bartending school and took dance classes. It was the bartending graduation class photo which FBI officials were able to use to put a face to the name Eric S. Galt. The Road to Memphis In December 1967, Ray, who had been living in Los Angeles for about a month, drove east from LA to New Orleans, Louisiana with a friend he had met in Southern California, Charles J. Stein. The purpose of the trip was to pick up Stein’s sister’s children and return to Los Angeles. The cost to Stein, among other things, reportedly was to join former Alabama Gov. George Wallace’s segregationist political party. Single-gunman theorists point to this fact as an indication of Ray’s racist beliefs. Two days later he checked out of the hotel on Chartres Street near the French Quarter in New Orleans and returned with Stein and the two children to Los Angeles. “We had a good time crossing the country – no police, no car trouble, no flying saucers,” Ray wrote in his autobiography. It was in New Orleans that the die was cast, according to Ray. While Stein picked up the children, Ray claimed he met with Raoul who once again promised him a Canadian passport after another smuggling job. In addition to the passport, Raoul would give James somewhere between $10,000 and $12,000. This time the contraband was to be guns. James Ray settled down in the early days of 1968, enrolling in dance classes, a mail order locksmith class and visiting Las Vegas on New Years Day. He moved around somewhat, but remained in the vicinity of Los Angeles. Ray underwent minor plastic surgery in February 1968. He told his surgeon that he wanted a more aquiline nose because he was an actor, but in reality Ray wanted to alter his features so that he no longer matched photographs of himself (as Galt), which he had been circulating among "lonely hearts" clubs across the country. Many investigators believe this demonstrates Ray’s intention to commit a major crime that would result in a manhunt for him. Sending out pictures of Eric S. Galt across the country and then deliberately changing Galt’s appearance would certainly create confusion among law enforcement personnel. On March 17, 1968, Ray filed a change of address form for Galt with a post office in Los Angeles. He gave a general delivery address in Atlanta, Georgia as his future destination. Several days later, Ray turned up in New Orleans, dropping off a package of clothing with the mother of Charles Stein’s nieces. Over the next week, Ray, by his own admission to Huie, began stalking King. First in Selma, Alabama, then to Montgomery and then Birmingham, Ray followed the civil rights leader as King made his preparations for a march on Washington, DC. Eventually King returned to Atlanta where Ray followed him. Ray remained in Atlanta until at least March 28. The next day, Ray showed up at the Aeromarine Supply Company in Birmingham, Alabama and asked to see a number of high-powered hunting rifles.

In his conversations with Huie, Ray claims that he met Raoul a second time when he dropped off the package for Stein in New Orleans and that Raoul also met him in Atlanta in late March. It was at that Atlanta meeting, Ray claimed, that Raoul told him to buy guns for a future sale in Memphis. “Raoul explained to me what he wanted me to do and that was to get a large bore deer rifle fitted with a scope, plus ammo, also to inquire about the price of cheap foreign rifles,” Ray wrote in a letter to Huie. “After I had bought the rifle we would take it to the buyers and if it was OK I would then buy 10 of them, the scoped ones, and about 200 of the cheap foreign ones.” At Aeromarine Supply, using the alias Harvey Lowmeyer, Ray examined several rifles and chose a Remington Gamemaster Model 760. This .243 caliber pump action rifle is a small caliber gun, but packs sufficient power to knock down a deer at 300 yards. In addition to the Model 760, Ray chose a Redfield variable scope, 2x to 7x power. For ammunition, he selected Norma hollow-point 75-grain bullets. The entire package cost him about $250. Under the firearms laws current at that time, the salesmen at Aeromarine Supply were not required to check or make note of Ray’s identity. Later that day, Ray phoned Aeromarine and said he was unhappy with the Model 760 and wanted to exchange it for something with more power. The next day, Ray returned and this time selected a Model 760 30-06 caliber rifle. He had the Redfield scope mounted on the new Model 760. The 30-06 is the type of rifle Ray was trained on in the army, and fires the army-specified Springfield 30-06 cartridge, featuring a 150-grain bullet, which exerts 2,370 foot-pounds of force at 100 yards. “Accuracy is there: crisp trigger and precision rifling, helping you put that buck in the freezer,” Remington Arms wrote about their fastest non-automatic big game rifle. The new rifle cost Ray $265.85.

Bullet and rifle, Tenn Sherrif's Dpt (CORBIS)

Ray told Huie that he spent a leisurely couple of days heading from Birmingham to Memphis, where Raoul told him to rent a room at 422 ½ Main Street on April 4. That address is the location of Bessie Brewer’s Rooming House across from the Lorraine Motel. He claimed he never returned to Atlanta after purchasing the rifle, but stayed instead in Mississippi. Huie, however, who retraced every step of Ray’s travels from the time he rode out of Jefferson City in the bread truck, was unable to find the motel Ray claims to have stayed at in Mississippi. On the contrary, the owner of the rooming house in Atlanta where Ray stayed prior to buying the rifle remembers Ray staying there until the first days of April 1968. Importantly, Martin Luther King was in Atlanta preparing for

his march on Washington while Ray said he was in Mississippi. Regardless, on April 3, 1968 Ray came to Memphis, Tennessee and rented a room in a hotel downtown. The next day, he moved to 422 ½ Main Street. Martin Luther King Jr. had just a few hours to live when Ray checked in. Known Facts The main item on King’s agenda in the spring of 1968 was not the war in Vietnam, nor was it the labor movement in Memphis. King was trying to organize a Poor Peoples’ March on Washington for early April where thousands of disenfranchised Americans of all races would descend on the nation’s capital and protest the country’s economic divisiveness. However, King accepted an invitation from labor leaders in Memphis to help the city’s sanitation department – nearly all black except for drivers -- in its unionization efforts in March. A rally in Memphis turned violent, with renegade gangs looting and rioting despite King’s pleas for nonviolent protests. King and the SCLC leadership left Memphis, but King felt the need to return to demonstrate that nonviolent protest had not lost its effectiveness. The SCLC made plans to return to Memphis and stay, once again, in the Lorraine Motel on April 3. King planned a nonviolent march in Memphis on April 8, to refocus attention on the sanitation workers strike. However, as he arrived in Memphis, King was served with a restraining order from a federal judge barring the march, which the civil rights leader planned to challenge in court the next day. King spent the evening of April 3 into the early hours of April 4 in a strategy session with aides, and at about 4:30 a.m. he returned to the Lorraine where his brother, the Rev. A.D. Williams King, Georgia Davis and Lucie Ward met him. The two brothers spent about a half-hour with the women before Martin Luther King Jr. returned to the room he was sharing with the Rev. Ralph Abernathy. Thirty minutes after returning to his room, King once again met with Davis in a separate room. He remained there for about an hour before returning to his own room. It was not until the early afternoon that King emerged from the hotel room, as Andrew Young went to court instead of King to fight the restraining order. King spent much of the afternoon with Davis, his brother, Ward and Abernathy. Sometime between 5:30 p.m. and 5:45 p.m. – Abernathy and Davis disagree on the time – King and Abernathy returned to their own hotel room to change for dinner. The entire group was headed for a meal at the home of a local minister, the Rev. Billy Kyles. At 6 p.m., King and Abernathy emerged from their second-story room onto the balcony of the Lorraine. King initiated a conversation with his driver, Solomon Jones, about the weather and Jones advised King to grab a coat, as the weather was turning chilly. King acknowledged Jones’ comment and started to turn toward his room. At that instant, Jones later told authorities that he heard a sound he assumed to be a firecracker and noticed

King falling to the floor of the balcony. Jones called for help and King’s aides, who were all nearby, rushed to the stricken civil rights leader.

Pointing in the direction of shot (credit:TIMEPIX)

The bullet struck King near his jaw, fracturing his lower mandible, severing the jugular vein, vertebral and subclavian arteries and shattering several vertebrae in his neck and back. There was nothing that could be done and Dr. Martin Luther King was pronounced dead at St. Joseph Hospital at 7:05 p.m. “Death was the result of a gunshot wound to the chin and neck with a fatal transection of the lower cervical and upper thoracic spinal cord and other structures in the neck,” wrote Dr. J.T. Francisco, the county medical examiner, in his official autopsy report. “The direction of the wound was front to back, above downward (from right to left).” Police security around Dr. King had been tight for the two days he was in Memphis in April. He had been under constant surveillance by at least two plainclothes officers who did not travel with King’s party; instead, they maintained a surreptitious watch over King’s activities. During most of this surveillance, two of the four officers who held the 24-hour vigil around King’s group were black: Detective Edward E. Redditt and Patrolman Willie B. Richmond. At the time of the shooting, Redditt had been removed from duty because an anonymous caller to the Memphis Police Department had made a threat against Redditt and his family because of the detective’s perceived actions as part of the “establishment.” At 4 p.m. April 4, Redditt left the scene of the surveillance – Memphis Fire Station No. 2, which provided a secure and covert place from which to observe King’s party. When the shots were fired, Richmond was still on duty at Fire Station No. 2, and reported hearing the shots. Richmond observed King fall to the floor of the balcony, and alerted both a tactical police unit nearby and Memphis Police headquarters. He was ordered to remain at the fire station while other officers responded to the Lorraine. Shortly afterward, Richmond was ordered to police headquarters to make a detailed report of his observations. Police strength in Memphis was high during King’s April visit, with nine tactical units spaced around the city and ten regular patrol units with three or four men per car near the Lorraine Motel at the time of the shooting. Five of the tac units were within a two-mile

radius of the Lorraine at 6 p.m., including Tac Unit 10, which was located at Fire Station No. 2. The unit consisted of 12 men in three cars, under the command of Shelby County Sheriff’s Department Lieutenant Judson Gormley. Tactical Unit 10 was taking a break at the fire station; the men were drinking coffee or using the restroom when the shots rang out. As soon as they were alerted to the shots, eight of the men ran toward the Lorraine Motel and two others drove from the fire station to the hotel.

View of apartment (POLICE)

Patrolman Morris, alerted by King’s staff that the shot had come from the rear of a boarding house across the street from the hotel, ran around the block to the front of the motel, where he met another officer from the tac unit, whose identity today remains in dispute. A search by two other officers found fresh footprints in the mud in an alley between the building from which the shot was believed to have originated and another building. One officer remained at that scene until crime scene technicians were able to make casts of the footprints. A second officer, Patrolman Dollahite, ran around the front of the building from which the assassin fired the bullet and ended up on Main Street in front of a rundown flophouse. Continuing down the block, Dollahite came upon a green blanket lying in front of Canipe’s Amusement Company, next door to the flophouse. The blanket covered a blue suitcase and a box containing a high-powered rifle equipped with a scope. For some reason, Dollahite, who observed Tac 10 commander Gormley approaching, ran past the blanket and took up a guard position at the end of the block. Gormley, coming toward Dollahite, also spied the blanket and gun and was told by the owner of Canipe’s Amusement Company that a white man had run past and dropped the bundle. Canipe told Gormley that the man fled the scene in a late model white Mustang. Gormley communicated this information to Memphis Police headquarters. The initial word of King’s assassination was radioed to headquarters at 6:03 p.m. At 6:06 p.m. a perimeter had been established around the blocks containing both the Lorraine and the flophouse. At 6:07 p.m Gormley advised HQ that the weapon could be found in front of Canipe’s Amusement Company. At 6:08, the dispatcher relayed information that the subject was a young, well-dressed white male. Two minutes later, the dispatcher reported to all units that the suspect had fled in a white Mustang. At 6:15 p.m. homicide detectives were on hand and by 6:30 they had possession of the bundle. The bundle, except for a tshirt and shorts was turned over to the Federal Bureau of Investigation at 9:15 p.m. All in all, the Memphis police botched the dragnet. They never put out an all-points bulletin to the Mississippi or Arkansas police despite the fact that Arkansas is less than

15 minutes from Memphis and Mississippi only a little further. Even though police throughout Memphis and Tennessee were looking for a white man in a Mustang, their Arkansas and Mississippi counterparts were blissfully unaware of any assassin in their midst. The Investigation The FBI became involved after Director J. Edgar Hoover and U.S. Attorney General Ramsey Clark ordered the department to investigate the possibility of a violation of the 1964 Civil Rights Act, which made it a federal crime to use race as a motive to murder or conspire to murder. Of course, the Memphis police continued to investigate because of the murder itself that had been committed in its jurisdiction. Special Agent Robert G. Jensen, the agent in charge of the FBI’s Memphis field office took charge of the federal probe. The early investigation centered on Bessie Brewer’s Rooming House where the shots originated. Brewer told authorities that a John Willard had registered with her at sometime between 3:30 and 4 p.m. on April 4, and was assigned to room 5B, which overlooked the Lorraine Hotel. Willard had originally been assigned to room 8, which did not provide such a view, but asked for a change. Willard was described as a well-dressed white man, about 5 feet 11 inches tall, about 35 years old weighing around 180 pounds. Charles A. Stephens, a resident of the rooming house, told investigators that he heard a gunshot coming from the bathroom at the rear of the building (overlooking the Lorraine Motel) and, running to his door after hearing the shot, he saw a man fitting Willard’s description fleeing toward the front of the building and down the stairs. Another resident, William Anchutz, reported hearing the shot and seeing a man fitting Willard’s description running away. Anchutz said to the man “I thought I heard a shot,” to which the man replied, “Yeah, it was a shot.” Next to the rooming house, two patrons in the Canipe Amusements Company heard a “thud” and saw a man, about 6 feet tall, around 30 years old and neatly dressed, running past the entry to the store. It appeared the man had dropped a package in the doorway of the store as he fled. Moments later, they saw a white Mustang drive away with the man inside. The package was a blanket containing a Remington Gamester Model 760 .30-06 caliber rifle with a scope, a radio, some clothes in a blue zippered bag, a pair of binoculars, a couple of beer cans and an ad for the York Arms Company with an accompanying receipt. Shortly after, the rifle and scope were traced to a Birmingham, Alabama sporting goods store, the Aeromarine Supply Company. Employees there told agents that a Harvey Lowmeyer purchased the items on March 30, 1968. The salesman who sold the rifle to Lowmeyer described him as a neat, 30-something white male about 6 feet tall and 165 pounds. The binoculars were traced to the York Arms Company in Memphis, and had been purchased two hours before King had been shot. The beer cans were purchased in Mississippi.

Five days after King was shot, police found a Memphis hotel reservation on April 3 for Eric Starvo Galt, who listed a Birmingham, Alabama address and drove a white Mustang. Galt stayed at the Rebel Motel in Memphis for one night: April 3. Through driver’s license records, police found that Galt was 36 years old, 5-feet 11-inches tall and he weighed 175 pounds. Galt had blond hair and blue eyes. Almost a week after the shooting, Galt’s white Mustang turned up in Atlanta, Georgia. A search of the vehicle showed Galt had the car tuned up twice in Los Angeles, California. Galt had lived in Birmingham for some time, and talking to neighbors, investigators found Galt had an extreme interest in dancing and took dancing lessons on a regular basis. Since clues pointed to the fact that Galt had spent a period in Los Angeles, dance studios there were canvassed and an important clue was found: a photograph of Eric Starvo Galt. The investigation bogged down a bit after the discovery of Galt’s car in Atlanta, and the FBI turned to its extensive records division for assistance. Using fingerprints found on the rifle and Galt’s possessions, the FBI ran a crosscheck against known fugitives. The decision to test against only fugitives was, in the FBI’s words “speculative.” There was no reason to believe Galt was a fugitive except for the assumption that it was a strong likelihood that King’s assassination was not Galt’s first crime. The hunch paid off when Galt’s fingerprints were found to match an escaped convict named James Earl Ray. The Hunt for Ray In a short period of time, authorities were easily able to piece together Ray’s travels since his escape, including lengthy trips to Los Angeles, New Orleans, Birmingham, Memphis (presumably to assassinate King), and eventually to Atlanta, where once again the trail grew cold. Ray’s family was of little help to authorities, claiming not to have heard from Ray for some time. Prison inmates familiar with Ray were questioned with little success; they told of bounties put on King’s head, but agents were not able to track down leads on the source of these bounties. One cellmate did tell agents that Ray had talked about how easy it was to get a passport in the name of a Canadian citizen, and that when he escaped, he was going to Canada and from there, abroad. Armed with this tidbit of information, the search headed north. “Though the search went through a staggering number of applications, and was based on the comparison of Ray’s photographs to those submitted with applications, it proved to be the necessary break in picking up Ray’s trail,” the official FBI report of the Martin Luther King assassination reveals. After looking over 175,000 applications, on June 1, 1968, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police contacted the FBI to report that George Ramon Sneyd, who bore a striking resemblance to Ray, had been issued a Canadian Passport on April 24, 1968. “Sneyd” purchased a roundtrip airfare from Toronto to London and left for the United Kingdom on May 6.

Across the Atlantic, FBI agents and Scotland Yard took up the chase. The bobbies learned “Sneyd” had turned in the return ticket in exchange for a ticket to Lisbon, Portugal. “Sneyd” arrived in Portugal on May 7, but returned to London on May 17. On June 8, 1968, British immigration authorities stopped James Earl Ray as he attempted to board a plane bound for Brussels, Belgium. The suspected assassin of Martin Luther King Jr. was in custody. With Ray/Galt/Sneyd in custody in Great Britain, the United States government prepared to request his extradition. Ray protested the extradition and in what would be the closest thing to a trial James Earl Ray would ever receive, the British courts were presented with the evidence against him. The Americans laid out the facts as reported above. A man identified as Ray bought a rifle similar to – if not the same as – the one that killed Dr. King. A man identified as Ray checked into the rooming house across from the Lorraine Hotel. He was seen running from the rooming house dropping a package that contained a rifle very similar to the one – if not the same one – that killed King. His fingerprints were found in a car similar to – if not the same as – one seen fleeing the area after the shooting. His picture was on a false passport application. At the very least, Ray would have been returned to the state of Missouri to finish out his robbery sentence. The Plea Ray was extradited to the United States and quickly returned to Memphis where he was placed in a specially constructed cell under 24-hour guard. Steel plates were placed over the windows of his cell, which required lights to be kept on in the cell constantly. Ray had attempted in Britain to hire F. Lee Bailey to handle his case in the United States, but Bailey refused. Ray then turned to Arthur J. Hanes Sr., an Alabama lawyer who had served as city commissioner of Birmingham while the notorious Bull Connor served as the city’s police chief. Hanes also defended three Ku Klux Klansmen accused of murdering a Detroit woman who participated in civil rights marches in Selma. A supporter of George Wallace, Hanes was voted out of office by the citizens of Birmingham in an effort to cleanse the city’s racist image. A well-known racist organization, the “Patriotic Legal Aid Fund” of Savannah, Georgia offered to pick up the costs of defending Ray, but Hanes told Ray he would have no part in his defense if the Patriotic Legal Aid Fund were involved. Instead, Hanes told Ray of the offer by Huie to pay up to $40,000 to Ray – to be signed over to his attorneys – if Ray would tell Huie his true story. While still in London, Ray agreed to that agreement and Hanes and his son Arthur, Jr. were hired as Ray’s sole legal advisors. Ray was returned to Memphis in mid-July by Air Force jet. A few days later, after meeting privately with Ray, Hanes released this statement: “From August 1967 when he met Raoul in Montreal, down to King’s death, he moved at Raoul’s direction. …He delivered the rifle to Raoul, and then from about 4:30 to nearly 6 he sat downstairs in Jim’s Grill drinking beer, waiting for Raoul. He says it was Raoul who fired the shot, and ran down the stairs, and threw down the rifle, zipper bag, and jumped in the Mustang

where Ray was waiting, and the two drove off together.” When he was asked whether he believed Ray’s statement, Hanes said: “I believe some of it. Unless Ray is a complete damned fool, I don’t see how he could have made the decision to kill King. Before King was killed, Ray was doing all right…. Why would he jeopardize his freedom by killing a famous man and setting all the police in the world after him? I have to believe either he didn’t do the killing, or if he did, he did it because he was caught in a conspiracy and couldn’t get out.” After 10 weeks of trying to investigate Ray’s claims and coming up empty, Hanes went to Ray with the bad news. “With all the evidence that exists against you, there is no way you can go to trial on a not guilty plea without risking a death sentence,” Hanes told Ray. “The people of Tennessee are talking a lot about law and order now. They are tired of so much crime. So this could be the time they decided to use the chair again.” Hanes told Ray he saw no chance of an acquittal in the case, which Ray did not want to hear. Hanes’ honesty with his client – who was clearly not forthcoming with information to his attorney – turned off Ray and it was only a matter of time before Arthur Hanes was taken off the case. In November, Ray fired Hanes and hired Texan Percy Foreman to take his case. Foreman was an extremely competent attorney: by 1958 he had defended 778 accused murderers. One was executed, 52 were sent to prison. The remaining 705 were acquitted of the crimes. Ten years later he had defended another two hundred murderers. Just one was sent to prison on a life sentence.

Percy Foreman (CORBIS)

Foreman spent 30 hours listening to Ray and working with Huie, whose investigation of the case revealed details that even the FBI had missed. As the date of Ray’s trial grew nearer, Foreman sat down with Ray. “I assume that you know I can’t get you out of this?” “Yeah, I know you can’t,” Ray told him. Foreman tried to convince Ray that his cause was hopeless. “Why go to trial?” he asked. “A defendant in your position should never risk the death penalty unless he has some

chance for acquittal. You have absolutely no chance for acquittal.” There was no secret that many people in Memphis on both sides of the issue didn’t want Ray to have a trial. A long, expensive affair filled with race-baiting and ethnic hatred would do no good in the city’s already tense atmosphere. Conspiracy theorists assume that another reason no one wanted a trial was to keep Ray from revealing everything he knew in open court. Eventually, Foreman was able to convince Ray to plead guilty. In his lengthy statement, Ray admitted that he “fired a shot from the second floor bathroom of the rooming house and fatally wounded Dr. Martin Luther King who was standing on the balcony of the Lorraine Motel.” Monday, March 10, 1969 was set for Ray to enter the courtroom of Judge Preston Battle and enter his guilty plea in return for a sentence of 99 years. In his appearance before Judge Battle that Monday morning, Ray admitted that his plea was entered without coercion and that he waived his right to a trial. He further admitted that he killed King, but added he “was not saying there had been no conspiracy, because there had been.” On Thursday of that week, Ray, in a Nashville prison, wrote to Battle: “I wish to inform the Honorable Court that famous Houston attorney Percy Fourflusher is no longer representing me in any capacity. My reason for writing this letter is that I intend to file for a post conviction hearing…” Ray intended to revoke his guilty plea. The case went all the way to the United States Supreme Court, but James Earl Ray was never given a trial for the slaying of King. Motive Dexter King notwithstanding, even the most rabid conspiracy buffs acknowledge that James Earl Ray at least played a part in killing Martin Luther King Jr. The question few have been able to answer with any degree of credibility is: Why? Was Ray’s racist hatred of King and other blacks strong enough to drive a previously non-violent criminal to murder? Or was there another factor – or factors – at work? Huie, whose relationship with James Earl Ray was fractious at best, believes Ray killed King and that he killed him to gain notoriety. Huie cites Ray’s almost neurotic obsession with having his photograph taken as a desire to leave a trail for the law to follow once he “made the big time.” Escaping from Jefferson City had failed to get him on the 10 Most Wanted List and smuggling drugs into Canada and from Mexico didn’t make him a notorious felon. Having slipped into Canada he could easily have started a new life free from crime, but that didn’t suit his personality. A serious, noteworthy crime would cement his place in history and killing Martin Luther King fit the bill nicely. Once arrested and faced with insurmountable evidence against him, Ray did the only thing possible to save his skin: he copped a plea. But three days later, when he realized

that his notoriety had diminished greatly once he passed into the Tennessee prison system and became just another number, Ray sought desperately to regain the spotlight. Having little else to do other than stare at the bars of his cell, he started a battle to “clear his name” that would last the rest of his life. When that battle ended in defeat, he did the only other thing he knew to come under public scrutiny: he attempted an escape. But to other students of the King assassination, Huie’s theory that Ray’s ego drove him to kill is insufficient. Because Ray traveled extensively across international borders and drew upon a seemingly inexhaustible supply of money, it is easy to build a circumstantial case of a well-financed conspiracy to kill King. Some argue that Fidel Castro was behind the assassination, hoping that King’s death would spur some sort of widespread race war in the United States. Others have claimed organized crime was behind King’s murder. However, there is no evidence this is the case and the standard operating procedure for a mob killing usually involves a gunman from inside the mob – not an inept, inexperienced gunman like Ray. There is ample evidence in the FBI files that Hoover and his associates wanted King removed from the civil rights movement in a less-than-honorable method, but there exist no public records of any official suggesting, thinking about or approving any act of physical violence against King. Of course many documents related to the assassination remain sealed, but any claim that Hoover or any other high-ranking FBI official played a role in an assassination plot is pure speculation simply not supported by physical evidence. President Johnson was unhappy with King’s anti-war stance, but by April 1968, Johnson’s standing among the American people was so low that murdering King would not have salvaged his chances to retain the presidency. Bobby Kennedy, as attorney general, had feared King’s alleged pro-communist leanings, but having lost a brother to an assassin’s bullet, it is unlikely that he would have seen murder as a chance to remove a potential rival. But what of the more radical groups on either side of the civil rights issue? The Ku Klux Klan on the far right and the Black Panthers (just one of many black radical groups) on the left? The Klan murdered, to be sure and the Klan probably wanted Martin Luther King Jr. out of the picture and in the grave, but the Klan was strong enough to recruit from within to kill King. Ray was a racist; there is ample evidence of this, but he was not a member of the KKK. And as his prison record showed, he was incapable or unwilling to work with blacks so there is little likelihood that he would have agreed to kill King as a favor for the Black Panthers or the Invaders or the Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee. Gerald Posner, however, spent a great deal of time and effort tracking down and confirming or attempting to confirm many conspiracy scenarios for his book Killing the Dream: James Earl Ray and the Assassination of Martin Luther King. Among the plots

Posner investigated was one involving James Earl Ray and his double, acting as agents for the CIA. Ten years after the assassinations of King and Robert Kennedy, the U.S. Congress appointed a select committee to investigate the murders of King and the two Kennedy brothers. Ray was interviewed at length by private investigators, lawyers for the committee and journalists. He took two lie detector tests and failed both of them; the polygraph operators -- one hired by the government, the other by Ray’s lawyer – each found that Ray lied when he was asked if he killed King. The committee examined each of the conspiracy theories and in turn dismissed them, but was severely hampered in its investigation by being unable to examine top-secret FBI files. Walter Fauntroy, a member of The House Select Committee on Assassins, which reopened the investigation of King's assassination in the 1970s, has repeatedly said that he was unsatisfied with the investigation because he felt it ended too quickly and failed to fully explore the conspiracy allegations. "We didn't have the time to investigate leads we had established but could not follow," Fauntroy said. The committee “found that (Ray’s attorney) was willing to advocate conspiracy theories without having checked the factual basis for them.” Furthermore, the report concluded, James Earl Ray “fired one shot at Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. The shot killed Dr. King.” The report was not a total loss for conspiracy theorists, however. After extensive investigation both publicly and privately, the Congressional committee concluded that although “no federal, state or local government agency was involved in the assassination of Dr. King…on the basis of circumstantial evidence…there is a likelihood of a conspiracy.” Posner believes that a St. Louis attorney named John Sutherland who put up a $50,000 bounty on King’s head organized the conspiracy. Ray was aware of Sutherland’s bounty in prison, Posner said, and talked of it to other inmates. The Congressional committee found the same motivation for Ray’s act. Jowers The King assassination returned to the headlines in 1993 when Lloyd Jowers, a 67-yearold former owner of Jim’s Grill, a restaurant overlooking the Lorraine Motel, claimed on ABC’s Prime Time Live that he was paid to participate in a conspiracy to kill King. In that interview, Jowers claimed he had been offered $100,000 by mobsters to arrange the death of King, planned the crime and hired an assassin other than Ray. He named a local produce dealer and a police officer as co-conspirators, and added that he did not realize that King was the intended target until after the shooting. Jowers then invoked his Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination and refused to talk further about his alleged role in the slaying. His attorney described Jowers as “a cog

in a very big wheel.” Although Lloyd Jowers refused to cooperate with authorities, the furor over his claims prompted the Shelby County District Attorney General to open an investigation into the restaurateur’s claim. It didn’t take those investigators long to debunk Jowers’s assertion that he was part of a conspiracy. Gerald Posner also investigated Jowers and found that he had asked others to back up his story in return for part of a $300,000 Hollywood movie deal. The King family, however, latched on to Jowers’s claim. The family never accepted the FBI’s conclusion that Ray acted alone, and the Kings sued Jowers in civil court for the wrongful death of Martin Luther King Jr. In 1999, the case went to trial and the King family persevered, winning a $100 damage claim. The money was never their goal, representatives of the family stated: “if we know the truth, we can be free to go on with our lives," Coretta Scott King testified. The main reason the Kings won the case was because Jowers did not contest the claim and offered no defense. Instead, jurors were shown his videotaped interview with Sam Donaldson and never heard from Jowers himself. One of the main plaintiff’s witnesses was TV jurist Judge Joe Brown, who testified about ballistics tests done on the Remington rifle recovered at the scene. Brown is not a ballistics expert, but served as judge on one of Ray’s suits to gain a new trial. Another plaintiff’s witness, New York-based attorney and media expert William Schaap suggested to jurors that the media was involved in a broad cover-up in King's murder. According to Schaap, the FBI, under the direction of J. Edgar Hoover, infiltrated newspapers around the world and persuaded newspapers in the 1960s to run stories that discredited King. Schaap also believed that the government was behind the stories that discredited the conspiracy theories that emerged after King's murder. Conclusion There is enough information on James Earl Ray to fill several volumes and still have something left over. In the end, he apparently got what he wanted: fame. Every time he felt he was somehow slipping into history, Ray managed to push his way back into the front pages of the nation’s newspapers. A crew of black inmates stabbed him in prison – but the wounds were superficial and it appeared Ray paid to have the attack occur. Attorney William Pepper managed to get James Earl Ray a mock trial on HBO – a debacle that played so fast and loose with the facts of the case that it deserves a fiction label. He managed to con Martin Luther King’s family into believing he was innocent of the civil rights leader’s death. James Earl Ray died in Brushy Mountain State Prison in Tennessee in 1998 of liver failure. He took the reason for his actions to the grave with him. Whether or not any one else played a role in King’s death does not diminish the fact that James Earl Ray fired the shot that killed Martin Luther King Jr. What Ray could not do, and what no one will ever

do, is erase the achievements King left behind. Source:

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