Category Archives: James Earl Ray

Fifty Years Ago the United States Government Killed Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Very few Americans are aware of the truth behind the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Few books have been written about it, unlike other significant assassinations, especially JFK’s. For fifty years there has been a media blackout supported by government deception to hide the truth. And few people, in a massive act of self-deception, have chosen to question the absurd official explanation, choosing, rather, to embrace a mythic fabrication intended to sugarcoat the bitter fruit that has resulted from the murder of the one man capable of leading a mass movement for revolutionary change in the United States. Today we are eating the fruit of our denial.

In order to comprehend the significance of this extraordinary book, it is first necessary to dispel a widely accepted falsehood about Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. William Pepper does that on the first page.

To understand his death, it is essential to realize that although he is popularly depicted and perceived as a civil rights leader, he was much more than that. A non-violent revolutionary, he personified the most powerful force for the long-overdue social, political, and economic reconstruction of the nation.

In other words, Martin Luther King was a transmitter of a non-violent spiritual and political energy so plenipotent that his very existence was a threat to an established order based on violence, racism, and economic exploitation.  He was a very dangerous man.

Revolutionaries are, of course, anathema to the power elites who, with all their might, resist such rebels’ efforts to transform society. If they can’t buy them off, they knock them off. Fifty years after King’s assassination, the causes he fought for – civil rights, the end to U.S. wars of aggression, and economic justice for all – remain not only unfulfilled, but have worsened in so many respects. And King’s message has been enervated by the sly trick of giving him a national holiday and urging Americans to make it “a day of service.” Needless to say, such service does not include non-violent war resistance or protesting a decadent system of economic injustice.

Because MLK repeatedly called the United States the “greatest purveyor of violence on earth,” he was universally condemned by the mass media and government that later – once he was long and safely dead – praised him to the heavens.  This has continued to the present day of historical amnesia.

But William Pepper resurrects the revolutionary MLK, and in doing so shows in striking detail why elements within the U.S. government executed him.  After reading this book, no fair-minded reader can reach any other conclusion.  The Plot to Kill King, the culminating volume of a trilogy that Pepper has written on the assassination, consists of slightly less text than supporting documentation in its appendices, which include numerous depositions and interviews that buttress Pepper’s thesis on the why and how of this horrible murder.  It demands a close reading that should put to rest any pseudo-debates about the essentials of the case.

Pepper, an attorney who represented the King family in the 1999 trial that found U.S. officials of the federal (in particular, the FBI and Army Intelligence), state, and local governments responsible for King’s assassination, has worked on the King case since 1977.  He met MLK in 1967, after King had read his Ramparts’ magazine article, “The Children of Vietnam,” that exposed the hideous effects of U.S. napalm and white phosphorous bombing on young and old Vietnamese innocents.  The text and photos of that article reduced King to tears and were instrumental in his increased opposition to the war against Vietnam as articulated in his dramatic Riverside Church speech (“Beyond Vietnam: A Time to Break Silence”) on April 4, 1967, one year to the day before his execution in Memphis.  That speech, in which King so powerfully and publicly linked the war with racism and economic exploitation, foretold his death at the hands of the perpetrators of those abominations.

Devastated by King’s death, and assuming the alleged assassin James Earl Ray was responsible, Pepper retreated from the fray until a 1977 conversation with the Rev. Ralph Abernathy, King’s associate, who raised the specter of Ray’s innocence.  After a five hour interrogation of the imprisoned Ray in 1978, Pepper was convinced that Ray did not shoot King and set out on a forty year quest to uncover the truth.

Before examining the essentials of Pepper’s discovery, it is important to point out that MLK, Jr., his father, Rev. M. L. King, Sr., and his maternal grandfather, Rev. A.D. Williams, all pastors of Atlanta’s Ebenezer Baptist Church, were spied on by Army Intelligence and the FBI since 1917.  All were considered communist sympathizers and dangerous to the reigning hegemony because of their espousal of racial and economic equality.  When MLK, Jr. forcefully denounced unjust and immoral war-making as well, and announced his Poor People’s Campaign and intent to lead a massive peaceful encampment of hundreds of thousands in Washington, D.C., he set off panic in the bowels of government spies and their masters.  Seventy-five years of spying on black religious leaders here found its ultimate “justification.”  As Stokely Carmichael, co-chairman of the Student Non-violent Coordinating Committee, said to King in a conversation secretly recorded by Army Intelligence, “The man don’t care you call ghettos concentration camps, but when you tell him his war machine is nothing but hired killers, you got trouble.”

It is against this “trouble” that Pepper’s investigation must be set, as that “trouble” is also the background for the linked assassinations of JFK, Malcolm X, and RFK.  Understanding the forces behind the military, the spies, and the gunmen who, while operating in the shadows, are actually the second layer of the onion skin, is essential.  The government and mainstream corporate media form the outer layer with their collusion in disinformation, lying, and truth suppression, but Pepper correctly identifies the core as follows.

Bombastic, chauvinistic, corporate propaganda aside, where the slaughter of innocents is, and always was, justified in the name of patriotism and national security, it has always and ever been about money.  Corporate and financial leaders trusted with the keys to the Republic’s treasure moved from boardrooms to senior government positions and back again.  Construction, oil and gas, defense industry, and pharmaceutical corporations, their bankers, brokers, and executives thrive in a war economy.  Fortunes are made and dynasties created and perpetuated and a cooperating elite permeates an entire society and ultimately contaminates the world in its drive for national resources wherever they are ….Vietnam was his [King’s] Rubicon …. Here, as never before, would he seriously challenge the interests of the power elite.

MLK was assassinated on April 4, 1968 at 6:01 PM as he stood on the balcony of the Lorraine Motel in Memphis, Tennessee.  He was shot in the lower right side of his face by one rifle bullet that shattered his jaw, damaged his upper spine, and came to rest below his left shoulder blade.  The U.S. government claimed the assassin was a racist loner named James Earl Ray, who had escaped from the Missouri State Penitentiary on April 23, 1967.  Ray was alleged to have fired the fatal shot from a second-floor bathroom window of a rooming house above the rear of Jim’s Grill across the street.  Running to his rented room, Ray allegedly gathered his belongings, including the rifle, in a bedspread-wrapped bundle, rushed out the front door onto the adjoining street, and in a panic dropped the bundle in the doorway of the Canipe Amusement Company a few doors down.  He was then said to have jumped into his white Mustang and driven to Atlanta where he abandoned the car.  From there he fled to Canada and then to England where he was eventually arrested at Heathrow Airport on June 8, 1968 and extradited to the U.S.  The state claims that the money Ray needed to purchase the car and for all his travel was secured through various robberies and a bank heist. Ray’s alleged motive was racism and that he was a bitter and dangerous loner.

When Ray, under extraordinary pressure, coercion, and a payoff from his lawyer to take a plea, pleaded guilty (only a few days later to request a trial that was denied) and was sentenced to 99 years in prison, the case seemed to be closed, and was dismissed from public consciousness.  Another hate-filled lone assassin, shades of Lee Harvey Oswald and Sirhan Sirhan, had committed a despicable deed.

In the years leading up to Pepper’s 1978 involvement, only a few lonely voices expressed doubts about the government’s case – Harold Weisberg in 1971 and Mark Lane and Dick Gregory in 1977.  The rest of the country put themselves and the case to sleep.  They are still sleeping, but Pepper is trying with this last book to wake them up.  Meanwhile, the disinformation specialists continue with their lies.

While a review is not the place to go into every detail of Pepper’s rebuttal of the government’s shabby claims, let me say at the outset that he emphatically does so, and adds in the process some tentative claims of which he is not certain but which, if true, are stunning.

As with the assassinations of President Kennedy and his brother, Robert (two months after MLK), all evidence points to the construction of patsies to take the blame for government executions.  Ray, Oswald, and Sirhan all bear striking resemblances in the ways they were chosen and moved as pawns over long periods of time into positions where their only reactions could be stunned surprise when they were accused of the murders.

It took Pepper many years to piece together the essential truths, once he and Abernathy interviewed Ray in prison in 1978.  The first giveaway that something was seriously amiss came with the 1979 House Select Committee on Assassinations’ report on the King assassination.  Led by Robert Blakey, suspect in his conduct of the other assassination inquiries, who had replaced Richard Sprague, who was deemed to be too independent, “this multi-million dollar investigation ignored or denied all evidence that raised the possibility that James Earl Ray was innocent,” and that government forces might be involved.  Pepper lists over twenty such omissions that rival the absurdities of the magical thinking of the Warren Commission. The HSCA report became the template “for all subsequent disinformation in print and visual examinations of this case” for the past thirty-seven years.

Pepper’s decades-long investigation, not only refutes the government’s case against James Earl Ray, but definitively proves that King was killed by a government conspiracy led by the FBI, Army Intelligence, and Memphis Police, assisted by southern Mafia figures. He is right to assert that “we have probably acquired more detailed knowledge about this political assassination than we have ever had about any previous historical event.”  This makes the silence around this case even more shocking.  This shock is accentuated when one is reminded (or told for the first time) that in 1999 a Memphis jury, after a thirty day trial and over seventy witnesses, found the U.S. government guilty in the killing of MLK.  The King family had brought the suit and William Pepper represented them.  They were grateful that the truth was confirmed, but saddened by the way the findings were buried once again by a media in cahoots with the government.

The civil trial was the King family’s last resort to get a public hearing to disclose the truth of the assassination.  They and Pepper knew that Ray was an innocent pawn, but Ray had died in prison in 1998 after trying for thirty years to get a trial and prove his innocence (shades of Sirhan Sirhan who still languishes in prison).  During all those years, Ray had maintained that he had been manipulated by a shadowy figure named Raul, who supplied him with money and his white Mustang and coordinated all his complicated travels, including having him buy a rifle and come to Jim’s Grill and the boarding house on the day of the assassination.  The government has always denied that Raul existed.

Blocked at every turn by the authorities and unable to get Ray a trial, Pepper arranged an unscripted, mock TV trial that aired on April 4, 1993, the twenty-fifth anniversary of the assassination.  Jurors were selected from a pool of U.S. citizens, a former U.S. Attorney and a federal judge served as prosecutor and judge, with Pepper serving as defense attorney.  He presented extensive evidence clearly showing that authorities had withdrawn all security for King; that the state’s chief witness was falling down drunk; that the alleged bathroom sniper’s nest was empty right before the shot was fired; that three eyewitnesses, including the NY Times Earl Caldwell, said that the shot came from the bushes behind the rooming house; and that two eyewitnesses saw Ray drive away in his white Mustang before the shooting, etc.  The prosecution’s feeble case was rejected by the jury that found Ray not guilty.

As with all Pepper’s work on the case (including book reviews), the mainstream media responded with silence.  And though this was only a TV trial, increasing evidence emerged that the owner of Jim’s Grill, Loyd Jowers, was deeply involved in the assassination.  Pepper dug deeper, and on December 16, 1993, Loyd Jowers appeared on ABC’s Primetime Live that aired nationwide.  Pepper writes, “Loyd Jowers cleared James Earl Ray, saying that he did not shoot MLK but that he, Jowers, had hired a shooter after he was approached by Memphis produce man Frank Liberto and paid $1,000,000 to facilitate the assassination.  He also said that he had been visited by a man names Raul who delivered a rifle and asked him to hold it until arrangements were finalized …. The morning after the Primetime Live broadcast there was no coverage of the previous night’s program, not even on ABC …. Here was a confession, on prime time television, to involvement in one of the most heinous crimes in the history of the Republic, and virtually no American mass-media coverage.”

In the twenty-five years since that confession, Pepper has worked tirelessly on the case and has uncovered a plethora of additional evidence that refutes the government’s claims and indicts it and the media for a continuing cover-up.  The evidence he has gathered, detailed and documented in The Plot to Kill King, proves that Martin Luther King was killed by a conspiracy masterminded by the U.S. government.  Much of his evidence was presented at the 1999 trial, while other was subsequently discovered.  Since the names and details involved make clear that, as with the murders of JFK and RFK, the conspiracy was very sophisticated with many moving parts organized at the highest level, I will just highlight a few of his findings in what follows.  A reader should read the book to understand the full scope of the plot, its execution, and the cover-up.

  • Pepper refutes the government account and proves, through multiple witnesses, telephonic, and photographic evidence, that Raul existed; that his full name is Raul Coelho; and that he was James Earl Ray’s intelligence handler, who provided him with money and instructions from their first meeting in the Neptune Bar in Montreal, where Ray had fled in 1967 after his prison escape, until the day of the assassination. It was Raul who instructed Ray to return to the U.S. (an act that makes no sense for an escaped prisoner who had fled the country), gave him money for the white Mustang, helped him attain travel documents, and moved him around the country like a pawn on a chess board. The parallels to Lee Harvey Oswald and Sirhan Sirhan are startling.
  • He presents the case of Donald Wilson, a former FBI agent working out of the Atlanta office in 1968, who went with a senior colleague to check out an abandoned white Mustang with Alabama plates (Ray’s car, to which Raul had a set of keys) and opened the passenger door to find that an envelope and some papers fell out onto the ground. Thinking he may have disturbed a crime scene, the nervous Wilson pocketed them.  Later, when he read them, their explosive content intuitively told him that if he gave them to his superiors they would be destroyed.  One piece was a torn out page from a 1963 Dallas telephone directory with the name Raul written at the top, and the letter “J” with a Dallas telephone number for a club run by Jack Ruby, Oswald’s killer. The page was for the letter H and had numerous phone numbers for H. L. Hunt, Dallas oil billionaire and a friend of FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover.  Both men hated MLK. The second sheet contained Raul’s name and a list of names and sums and dates for payment.  On the third sheet was written the telephone number and extension for the Atlanta FBI office. (Read Jim Douglass’s important interview with Donald Wilson in The Assassinations, p.479-491.)
  • Pepper interviewed four other witnesses who confirmed that they had seen Raul with Jack Ruby in Dallas in 1963 and that they were associated.
  • Pepper shows that the alias Ray was given and used from July 1967 until April 4, 1968 – Eric Galt – was the name of a Toronto operative of U.S. Army Intelligence, Eric St. Vincent Galt, who worked for Union Carbide with Top Secret clearance. The warehouse at the Canadian Union Carbide Plant in Toronto that Galt supervised “housed a top secret munitions project funded jointly by the CIA, the U.S. Naval Surface Weapons Center, and the Army Electronics Research and Development Command …. In August 1967, Galt met with Major Robert M. Collins, a top aide to the head of the 902nd Military Intelligence Group (MIG) Colonel John Downie.”  Downie selected four members for an Alpha 184 Sniper Unit that was sent to Memphis to back up the primary assassin of MLK.  Meanwhile, Ray, set up as the patsy, was able to move about freely since he was protected by the pseudonymous NSA clearance for Eric Galt.
  • To refute the government’s claim that Ray and his brother robbed the Alton, Illinois Bank to finance his travels and car purchase (therefore no Raul existed), Pepper “called the sheriff in Alton and the president of the bank; they gave the same statement. The Ray brothers had nothing to do with the robbery.  No one from the HSCA, the FBI, or The New York Times had sought their opinion.”  CNN later reiterated the media falsehood that became part of the official false story.
  • Pepper proves that the fatal shot came from the bushes behind Jim’s Grill and the rooming house, not from the bathroom window. He presents overwhelming evidence for this, showing that the government’s claim, based on the testimony on a severely drunk Charlie Stephens, was absurd.  His evidence includes the testimony of numerous eyewitnesses and that of Loyd Jowers, the owner of Jim’s Grill, who said he took the rifle from the shooter in the bushes and brought it into the bar where he hid it.  Thus, Ray was not the assassin.
  • He presents conclusive evidence that the bushes were cut down the morning after the assassination in an attempt to corrupt the crime scene. The order to do so came from Memphis Police Department Inspector Sam Evans to Maynard Stiles, a senior administrator of the Memphis Department of Public Works.
  • He shows how King’s room was moved from a safe interior room, 201, to balcony room, 306, on the upper floor; how King was conveniently positioned alone on the balcony by members of his own entourage for the easy mortal head shot from the bushes across the street. (Many people only remember the iconic photograph taken after-the-fact with Jesse Jackson, Andrew Young, et al., standing over the fallen King and pointing across the street.)  Pepper implicates that Reverends Billy Kyles, Jesse Jackson, and, to a lesser extent, Ralph Abernathy were involved in these machinations.  He uncovers of the role of black military intelligence agent Marrell McCollough, attached to the 111th MIG, within the entourage.  McCollough can be seen kneeling over the fallen King, checking to see if he’s dead.
  • Pepper confirms that all of this, including the assassin in the bushes, was dutifully photographed by Army Intelligence agents situated on the nearby Fire House roof.
  • He presents evidence that all security for Dr. King was withdrawn from the area by the Memphis Police Department, including a special security unit of black officers, and four tactical police units. A black detective at the nearby fire station, Ed Redditt, was withdrawn from his post on the afternoon of April 4th, allegedly because of a death threat against him.  And the only two black firemen at Fire Station No.2 were transferred to another station.
  • He names and confirms the presence of Alpha 184 snipers at locations high above the Lorraine Motel balcony.
  • He explains the use of two white mustangs in the operation to frame Ray.
  • He proves that Ray had driven off before the shooting; that Loyd Jowers took the rifle from the shooter who was in the bushes; that the Memphis police were working in close collaboration with the FBI, Army Intelligence, and the “Dixie Mafia,” particularly local produce dealer Frank Liberto and his New Orleans associate Carlos Marcello; and that every aspect of the government’s case was filled with holes that any person familiar with the details and possessing elementary logical abilities could refute.
  • So importantly, Pepper shows how the mainstream media and government flacks have spent years covering up the truth of MLK’s murder through lies and disinformation, just as they have done with the Kennedy and Malcom X assassinations that are of a piece with this one.

But since this is a book review and not a book, I will stop listing Pepper’s very detailed and convincing findings.  While he may not have answered every aspect of the case, and may be mistaken in some small details, he has proven beyond a shadow of a doubt the basic fact that James Earl Ray did not kill Martin Luther King, but that this great and dangerous leader was killed by a conspiracy organized at the highest levels of government.

The Plot to Kill King will mesmerize any reader seeking the truth about MLK’s assassination. Even when Pepper, towards the end of the book, offers circumstantial and non-corroborated testimony from witnesses Ronnie Lee Adkins and Johnton Shelby, the reader can’t help but be intrigued and to consider their stories highly plausible given all that Pepper has proven. Adkins claims that his father, a friend of Clyde Tolson, FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover’s deputy, and then he himself, were part of the plot to kill King.  This involved politicians, the FBI, MPD, and mafia, including the aforementioned produce dealer Frank Liberto and others, making payoffs with FBI money to various people, including Jesse Jackson (whom Adkins, Jr. claims was a paid FBI informer) and working closely on the details of the assassination.  Johton Shelby’s story as recounted in his deposition (2014) to Pepper (reproduced, together with Adkins’ (2009), as appendices in the book), is that his mother, who was working as an emergency room aide at St. Joseph’s Hospital when King was brought there, inadvertently witnessed men spitting on Dr. King as he lay in the emergency room and a doctor putting a pillow over his head and suffocating him to death. Pepper tends to accept these accounts, but says he isn’t completely convinced of all aspects of them. The reader is offered plenty of food for thought concerning these claims.

Besides clearly proving the government’s part in killing Martin Luther King, this book is very important for the way Pepper links the case to those of JFK and RFK, who was murdered two months after King. At the center of all these murders is a trinity of men who were devoted to ending the Vietnam War and all wars, restoring economic justice for all Americans, and eliminating racial inequality.  That their goals were the same provides a motive for their murders by forces opposed to these lofty objectives. That their murders clearly involved highly sophisticated operations and cover-ups that could never have been pulled off by “crazed lone assassins” points to powerful forces with those means at their disposal. And when it comes to opportunity, when did the shadowy forces of the deep state ever lack for that?

The ramifications of the MLK assassination profoundly inform our current condition. For anyone who truly cares about peace, love, and justice, The Plot to Kill King is essential reading. William Pepper should be saluted.  He has carried on Martin King’s noble legacy.

  • This is an updated review first published on 28 November 2016 at Global Research.

The “Crucifixion” of the Black Messiah

Dick Cavett: A lot of people…were astounded at how you got [alleged assassin of Martin Luther King, James Earl] Ray to change the plea [from “not guilty” to “guilty”].

Percy Foreman [Ray’s lawyer and LBJ crony]: I didn’t get him to change the plea. [Laughing] I simply told him that I thought he would be executed if he didn’t.

— The Dick Cavett Show, August 9, 1969.1

 A Piece of Work, and then Some!

Choose any notable event between presidents Calvin Coolidge and Richard Nixon (even beyond), such was his impact that any subsequent discussion is far from complete without significant reference to J Edgar Hoover, the long-time founding Director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI); chances are that its Director’s ‘fingerprints’ were all over said “event”. That said, such knowledge about one of the most iconic and consequential figures in American history has only come to pass incrementally in the ensuing years after his death in 1972.

Moreover, choose any significant individual public or political figure during that era, and the likelihood is that Hoover knew more about that person than they might’ve known about themselves. He most certainly knew much more about them than they themselves might’ve cared for anyone else to know, much less someone like Hoover.

As we will see, one such “individual” on Edgar’s radar was the iconic civil rights leader and anti-Vietnam war campaigner Dr Martin Luther King (MLK); one such “event” was his assassination on April 4, 1968 in Memphis, TN., and the subsequent cover-up by the forces behind the murder and/or those closely aligned with them. The man who was subsequently charged with the crime, James Earl Ray, spent the rest of his life in prison, despite maintaining his innocence up until his last breath, an outcome we might safely opine ranks as one of the greatest perversions of justice in the Grand American Narrative.

There can surely be no doubt now there was a high level conspiracy to eliminate King, one planned and orchestrated from the highest levels of the U.S. government on down the ranks and that James Earl Ray was framed. In short, he was the fall-guy, and his involvement in the King assassination was both peripheral and unknowing. We will return throughout to the subject of King, Ray, the assassination, the conspiracy, and its 50 YO cover-up.

But first up, some background on Hoover and his alter ego and partner-in-crime (in this instance and in so many others) is necessary: president Lyndon Baines Johnson (LBJ). Few politicians of any political stripe and any significant import throughout Hoover’s lingering reign – and crucially, few Oval Office occupants – had a tighter relationship with America’s then Number One G-Man than did LBJ. That their fortunes, ambitions, and destinies intertwined in unique ways is axiomatic for those in the know. That all this was to come in handy for both men doesn’t even begin to explain it.

Beyond their involvement in King’s murder, individually their impact was not only to change everything from the course of the lives of millions of people to the political direction and very character of their nation and many others as well; together their impact proved to be much greater than the sum of the parts. That such new knowledge continues to be exposed by intrepid researchers and writers is also a given, even if such information doesn’t always filter through to – much less become accepted by — the mainstream. The “mainstream” in this sense being both the media gatekeepers and their readership.

The essence of this preamble becomes compelling when one reads the forthcoming book by Phil Nelson titled: Who REALLY Killed Martin Luther King Jr.? – The Case Against Lyndon B. Johnson and J. Edgar Hoover. (Author’s note: I’ve been privy to an advance copy of this book for several weeks.) By referencing all available evidence and documents whilst drawing upon the extraordinary work of previous authors, most notably Dr William Pepper (to whom we shall return), but others as well — and in the process duly debunking both the renditions and reputations of several other authors whose names have frequently been linked with the official, yet totally bogus, narrative of his assassination, again most notably William Bradford Huie — Nelson delivers a thorough exposition of the real backstory behind one of modern American history’s most defining and traumatic events.

In doing so, as already indicated, the author shines the spotlight on two of the most reprehensible, coldblooded, megalomaniacal, treasonous, and criminally minded public figures ever to ‘grace’ the political stage and be accorded the public trust in the Home of the Brave and the Land of the Free: Messrs Hoover and Johnson. Given the plethora of folks — both living and dead — who might fit the above profile, by any measure we can say that that is one very big call.

It’s axiomatic that there was no shortage of people throughout his reign who pissed Edgar off, a not especially difficult achievement even for those who went out of their way to avoid doing so. Hoover was to be sure one of the Great Haters in that aforementioned narrative. And there can be little doubt that it was King — along with Robert Kennedy and his brother John Fitzgerald Kennedy — who invited Edgar’s hatred more so than anyone else. Hoover, along with LBJ — arguably the most unhinged, criminally psychopathic Oval Office occupant to date, an observation difficult to refute for those who take the time to read Nelson’s earlier work on the man; see here, here, and here — conspired to eliminate King. All up then, if there is a more symbiotically iniquitous alliance in the annals of U.S. political enterprise, then this writer who’d be keen to know about it.

Insofar as Nelson’s book is concerned, space herein precludes a detailed ‘blow by blow’ of the key dramatis personae involved in the King plot, the machinations behind it all, and the subsequent cover up that has endured to this day. In any event it is not the main purpose of this exercise. Suffice to say his meticulous deconstruction of the circumstances attending the assassination and the actual (versus the fabricated) facts related to it, and the now 50 year old campaign to preserve intact the official narrative, must now stand as the definitive account of this extraordinary event – both deeply shameful and tragic in equal measure — in America’s history.

That said, in a ‘cut to the chase’ kinda way, the following summary may be sufficient to inform those not overly familiar with some of the “actual facts”, and set the stage for what is to follow.

  1. a)  The assassination of MLK was planned more than 2 years before, and was the brainchild of Johnson and Hoover, with Edgar’s 2IC Clyde Tolson the point-man, ably abetted by Cartha “Deke” DeLoach;
  2. b)  The motivations for Hoover and LBJ were various and sometimes over-lapping, with Hoover having a visceral hatred of King because of his activism and his race, and LBJ resenting his popularity, political influence and vehement opposition to the Vietnam war;
  3. c)  The plotters cunningly planned to have the assassination portrayed from the off as the work of another “lone nut”, in Ray’s case, ‘[A] vicious Southern racist and hater, stalker, [and] murderer’, itself a total fabrication;
  4. d)  It was the famed novelist, William Bradford Huie, an old friend/crony of Hoover’s, who was given a “mission” to create this meme for Ray, one whose shelf life endures to this day, and from whom so many others took their lead in its perpetuation;
  5. e)  A civil trial in 1999 exonerated Ray (who’d died in prison the previous year just over 40 years after the murder), and it found that a government conspiracy was responsible for King’s murder, [and] that Ray was a ‘patsy’ with no knowing involvement in the hit.

From these basic premises, Nelson methodically unpacks this bespoke meme regarding James Earl Ray – as removed from reality as it could possibly be imagined — as the massive deceit that it was. He then presents us with a revised account in its place, based upon hard evidence that exonerates Ray. It needs be noted that Nelson’s account is supplemented by many other authors, including Harold Weisberg, Mark Lane, and, particularly, William Pepper.

Nelson also posits many instances of how government investigators — the FBI originally, then the Department of Justice in 1976, the House Select Committee on Assassinations (HSCA) investigators in 1978, and the DOJ again in 2000 — deliberately avoided pursuing any and all leads which pointed toward Ray’s innocence. In the latter case, it is noteworthy this aversion to allowing the truth to emerge regarding King’s murder was presided over by none other than William Jefferson Clinton, a man who interestingly enough, like LBJ himself at least post-1963 — owed his political career in no small measure to the black vote.

The Most Notorious Liars in America

As regards J Edgar Hoover then, given that he ruled the roost at the FBI for almost half a century right up until his demise, he surely qualifies as one of the most enduring — if not quite endearing – characters in the Grand American Narrative. More to the point, Edgar was one hombre who in the popular American idiom might be described as ‘a piece of work, and then some’, an accolade that could’ve been coined with just him in mind. In this LBJ himself was no less “a piece of work”.

Whether together or separately, in almost everything they touched or became involved in, this “impact” however it might be identified and so defined rarely manifested itself in a good way. Moreover, that their behaviour and actions went against everything their country purported to represent to the world at large and was at odds with every principle and value they were sworn to uphold as per the hallowed Constitution and the rule of law is a given.

For his part, along with pissing off – and instilling abject fear in – a lot of very famous, important and powerful people, Hoover’s main talent was being able to keep a secret, including as it turned out not only his own ‘deepest and darkest,’ but some of Johnson’s as well. That is to say he knew ‘where the bodies were buried’, a statement that again we might reflexively equate with the life, personality, and times of LBJ himself.

It should be noted that at the time they were still strutting the political stage, few folks would have known whose “bodies” Hoover and LBJ actually knew about, how they became “bodies” in the first place, and/or how much their ‘resurrection’ at the time might have changed the course of events as we now know them to have done. In both cases we’re not just speaking figuratively here. Whether by accident, expediency, or design, such information almost always worked to both men’s advantage. Insofar as their respective legacies go, it probably does so to this day, several decades after they both passed on (within just over six months of each other).

It needs be noted at this point that readers should not expect this narrative to be gleefully embraced by the mainstream media, given that for half a century they have by omission or by commission avoided revealing anything remotely resembling the truth of the matter. As with almost any significant event in U.S. history and the key players therein, the mainstream media – including many purported progressive, ‘liberal’ types – have proven themselves tireless gatekeepers inoculating their constituencies against that virulent infection called ‘truth’ for fear such a ‘pandemic’ will overwhelm the immune system of the republic.

This is, of course, not just in the case of King’s assassination, but just about any significant episode in American history where accounts differing from the official narrative are at best patronisingly reported, or relegated to the realm of conspiracy theory. Indeed in his must view interview last year with James Corbett, William Pepper alluded to this reality.

Preserving the secrets of the republic is as much, if not indeed more so, about protecting the reputations of individuals as it is about defending the ever so fragile integrity of ‘hallowed’ institutions, the Fourth Estate being one of these, along with the FBI, the Department of Justice, the Congress, and, of course, the presidency itself, to name just a few that are especially relevant in this instance.

In a recent Washington Post piece by Tom Jackman, the title from the off gives us a hint of what to expect: “Who killed Martin Luther King Jr.? His family believes James Earl Ray was framed.” The perfunctory concession embodied in the title — that King’s family “believes” Ray was innocent – and the ensuing narrative ends up being far removed from actually presenting any authentic detail that supports that belief, or offering anything that might invite readers to explore the matter further.

One also suspects that if it was any one other than the King family itself making these assertions, they’d have been ignored at best, or at worst, dismissed as conspiracy theorists. Jackman — ever the dutiful MSM ‘presstitute’ it would seem, and in an apparent attempt to inject some balance and objectivity — cites David Garrow of all people, a ‘Pulitzer Prize-winning biographer of MLK’.

As Jackman tells it, Garrow viewed the King family as part of a larger population of American people who ‘need to believe that the assassination of a King or a Kennedy must be the work of mightier forces’ rather than the victims “of small-fry, lifetime losers”‘, as if to suggest the victims of the assassinations in question were simply in the wrong place at the wrong time.

As Jackman himself seems keen to emphasise (in the process holding up the Pulitzer winner as the go-to man on all things King), [Garrow he notes] is all but dismissive of such folks’ thinking: In Garrow’s palpably condescending opinion, ‘People need to see something of a balance between effect and cause’, he observes….[That] ‘if something has a huge evil effect, it should be the result of a huge evil cause.’ For those of us who’ve examined the whole “conspiracy theory” construct, this is a familiar trope, one that is trotted out with monotonous frequency.

Yet here is just one example of Nelson’s attention to detail in dismissing the likes of Garrow and other writers and authors of the King narrative, with Garrow himself a long way from being amongst the most egregious of those who’ve perpetuated the official narrative. Whilst acknowledging Garrow’s ‘partial revelations’ of Hoover’s ‘malfeasance and assorted criminal acts’ in his and the FBI’s campaign against King, Nelson states that these revelations ceased after the assassination.

He [Garrow] did not address the closing episode of King’s life; there is little reflection evident as to the forces that came to bear on King’s murder in Memphis within Garrow’s book, despite the intensive examination of them up until that point…. yet Garrow portrayed himself as the expert in later interviews on the subject. In not connecting anything he had examined up to 1968 with what happened next, he created a major disconnect.

Without any discernible nod to his own proclivities in this regard, it is interesting to note that Hoover himself once publicly designated MLK the “most notorious liar in America”. This Hooverian ‘accolade’ equally applies to not just the man himself, but his kindred spirit LBJ, along with the many authors who have ‘fought the good fight’ against truth and justice. It can and does also apply – albeit in the more collective sense – to the corporate media, whom I’ve hitherto described as the ‘praetorian guards of the empire’s liars’.

We are again talking about a recurring motif in the Grand Narrative then, and one which this writer has frequently cited as irrefutable evidence against that age-old truism: [that] ‘America doesn’t do irony’. Indeed, America does irony so well, it doesn’t realise how well it does “[do] irony”. To underscore this from a more contemporary perspective, the most accomplished purveyors of fake news are the corporate media, the very ones who are first to criticise any narrative that is at odds with their own. For those Americans then who harbour few illusions about their past history and the key political and public players who’ve populated it and driven the narrative, such observations will simply serve to underscore what many already know.

On the other hand, for those folks who, despite all evidence to the contrary, still see their country as the bastion of democracy, freedom, justice, equality, truth, and a force for good in the world – and may not have been acquainted with the individual and shared history of the aforementioned individuals – then this is a story which should leave one and all in a breathless state of disbelief, revulsion and shame. “Should” is the operative word herein; that “will” (ahem) should be in lieu thereof, may be expecting a tad too much.

Standing on the Shoulders of Giants

For his part, along with pissing off – and instilling fear in – a lot of very famous, important and powerful people, for his part Hoover’s main talent was being able to keep a secret, including as it turned out not only his own ‘deepest and darkest’, but some of Johnson’s own. That is to say he knew ‘where the bodies were buried’, another statement we might reflexively equate with the life, personality, and times of LBJ himself.

Again much the same can be said of the one man to whom he was most beholden, LBJ, even more so than Hoover. And although by no means the only one, this includes in LBJ’s case, one of the most prominent champions of liberal, progressive values in the media, a man named Bill Moyers. The recently retired Moyers has consistently refused to entertain a bad word about his former boss LBJ, which is understandable to some degree since he was complicit in many of his nefarious schemes whilst in office.

This included his proxy involvement in the harassment via Hoover’s FBI of the civil rights leader, which itself extended to the bugging of MLK’s phones, blackmail, in addition to death threats. Moyers even embroiled himself in a threat to sue the History Channel a few years back over a documentary series aired on the Channel that dared to suggest that LBJ was indeed a key plotter in the assassination of his predecessor. Well might we say: So much then for the purported liberal defenders of truth, justice, freedom of speech, and the American way.

Insofar as the MLK story goes, it is to Dr William Pepper that Nelson ‘dips his lid’ most prominently as being his most inspired source and the most indefatigable of investigators in the search for the real truth about the man’s murder, one of America’s most seminal and quintessential of ‘state crimes against democracy’. Pepper has written three books on this event, the latest being 2017’s The Plot to Kill King: The Truth Behind the Assassination of Martin Luther King Jr.

In his aforementioned interview with James Corbett, he reveals that in the forty plus years he’s been involved in investigating and reporting on the King assassination, he has spent over a million dollars of his own money and at one point relocated himself and his family to the UK as a resulta of numerous death threats. It is also notable that Pepper has given his seal of approval to Nelson’s more recent effort to add further insight into this extraordinary story. Here’s part of what he had to say (via email to this writer and Nelson):

Phil Nelson….has provided us with some valuable missing information about the actions of Lyndon Johnson in the context of events in the 1960’s. I’ve long believed the information given to me…about LBJ’s knowing involvement and collusion in the assassination of JFK. Nelson’s research about Johnson’s collaboration [with] and his support of the profoundly illegal and evil, public actions of J. Edgar Hoover [in the assassination of Martin Luther King] fills in many blanks and is a highly valuable historical contribution. I urge, and hope, that this work will be widely read.

If Nelson has written the definitive account of King’s murder then, it is to his credit that he goes out of his way to ensure that these people receive due acknowledgement for their contributions. This is not only evident in the course of the narrative itself, but was consistently reinforced to me in the recent conversations I had with him via Skype.

By the same token, Nelson has been unsparing in his criticism of those who have muddied the waters, and especially so of William Bradford Huie, the man whom Hoover personally tasked with authoring the meme that became irrevocably associated in the public’s mind regarding James Earl Ray. As Nelson tells it, Huie – a novelist it should be noted — reinvented Ray as a man completely at odds with his real persona. Instead of being depicted as ‘a backward, uneducated but non-violent man of low self-esteem’, Huie successfully remolded Ray into an aggressive, violent, hate-filled Southern-born racist whose main ambition in life was to see his name topping the FBI’s “Ten Most Wanted” list. Huie did this via a series of lies, fabrications, and inventions, ‘presented as only a novelist could do’. He wasn’t even born in the south.

Being Black in America: The King Legacy Today

According to Eddie Glaude Jr., in a recent article titled “The Whitewashing — and Resurrection — of Dr. King’s Legacy“, the civil rights leader began second guessing the certainty of his ‘moral vision’. He’d “underestimated how deeply the belief that white people matter more than others was ingrained in the habits of American life.’ King apparently saw that white resentment was ‘not simply a sin of the South. It was embedded in the very psyche of white America”. When we consider the state of racial relations in America today – fifty years after LBJ’s Civil Rights Act was enacted in 1964 – few could argue there’s been a substantive across the board shift for the better in the social, educational, financial, legal, economic, or political standing of African Americans. This is palpably obvious even to non-Americans, even after the election of a black president in 2009, and whose second term in office embraced the 50th anniversary of the Act. Yet his tenure was ironically characterised by an unprecedented uptick in racial tension, division and violence (again, obvious to anyone with a passing interest in the country’s national affairs), and it could be argued that the standing of African Americans is in so many respects worse than it was in 1964.

This realisation is made even more unsettling by the fact that Obama seemed disinterested in lending the weight of his office to meaningful leadership on the issue, or for that matter was incapable of grasping the gravity of the situation. One suspects if he’d spent more time addressing this issue than bailing out Wall Street criminals; attacking journalists and whistle-blowers for their attempts to hold his government to account; resisting the pressures of the neo-con crowd and their so-called liberal interventionist confreres to interfere in the affairs of other countries; and bombing wedding ceremonies in the Middle East and beyond – to name just a few of those activities to which he seemed more focussed on that those of the concerns of his fellow African Americans, we might be talking about a different reality for many of them today. This from a president who reportedly opined that the iconic TV series The Wire was one of his favourites shows!

In King’s final book, Where Do We Go From Here: Chaos or Community?, he argued in part that white supremacy stood in the way of America’s democracy, that it was an ever-present force in frustrating the dreams of the nation’s darker-skinned citizens. At the heart of it was a distorted understanding of the meaning of racial justice. He wrote:

Negroes have proceeded from a premise that equality means what it says, and they have taken white Americans at their word when they talked of it as an objective. But most whites in America … proceed from a premise that equality is a loose expression for improvement. White America is not even psychologically organized to close the gap–essentially it seeks only to make it less painful and less obvious but in most respects to retain it. This is a devastating judgment about our so-called national commitment to progress.…It reduces racial justice to a charitable enterprise by which white people “do good” for black people. This, in turn, provides white Americans with a necessary illusion that preserves the idea of innocence and insulates their conscience or, perhaps, their soul from guilt and blame.

One is left to ponder if King’s assessment isn’t as pertinent now as it was then.

And for those folks uncertain as to whether Johnson was a man capable of such a treasonous, criminal act as to arrange the murder of the most prominent African American of the ear, they might like to get up close and personal with Nelson’s 2012 book, LBJ: The Mastermind of the JFK Assassination, wherein as the title suggests, he charges LBJ – convincingly so — with being the principal orchestrator of the assassination of his predecessor and the subsequent cover-up.

As we might rightly opine, that’s some “form” indeed!

And if that doesn’t do the trick, they should try reading this author’s account of the attempted sinking of the USS Liberty in 1967 by Israeli Defence Forces during the Six Day War, and from there consider LBJ’s direct role in planning and stage-managing both of these events. (See here and here.)

Not noted for being a conviction politician by any stretch, there was always a disconnect between Johnson’s drive to push his country to its limits in Vietnam (and beyond), and his drive to push the Great Society and its accompanying reforms (the War on Poverty anyone?) as far as he could. In keeping with his unique psychopathology, the Great Society was always all about LBJ. Any altruism embedded in its goals — these being egalitarianism, justice, equality, economic and social emancipation, and securing basic civil rights for African-Americans and other minorities in general — would have been foreign to the Johnson psyche.

By the same token LBJ, ever the consummate political chameleon and ‘chancer’, may just have been sucking up the zeitgeist; the Civil Rights movement at that time was unstoppable in any event. He knew supporting change in this area was one of many keys to his re-election in 1968, as well as providing him with extra ballast for his legacy, something that Johnson became increasingly obsessed with.

That is to say, there are still plenty of folks who’d refute any hard-core, warts ‘n all assessment of both these men, their tenure, and the sheer depth and breadth of damage they visited upon the republic, the fabric of which was very much torn and frayed at the time. It needs be noted this was during an era when, notwithstanding the intergenerational acrimony, economic inequality, social division, political turmoil, and cultural discord, of the times, said republic – or at least a sufficiently critical mass of its rank and file members — appeared to show some preparedness to reflect on the direction in which it was heading and what it might do about it.

For his part, in his championing of civil rights, social equality, justice, racial harmony, Martin Luther King both embraced, embodied, and echoed that promise, and there can be no doubt that that is what ‘scared the horses’ the most. That we haven’t seen anything quite like the movement he inspired since may be one of the most damning indictments on the prevailing political zeitgeist, and one of the most telling pointers to the republic’s future.

As for Johnson himself, like with his successor Obama mentioned earlier, had Johnson not embarked on his disastrous Vietnam adventure, there might have been some time, money, and energy remaining to devote to those issues that at the time really mattered to ordinary Americans, regardless of their colour.

There can be no doubt that his Great Society – no matter the potential and the promise it offered in principle – suffered from Johnson’s numerous other obsessions. Not least in this case his obsession with eliminating the very man who inspired the sentiment underpinning his whole civil rights/war on poverty crusade to begin with.

And they say, “Americans don’t do irony”. As I’m fond of pointing out, this author begs to differ.

  1. From: Who REALLY Killed Martin Luther King Jr.? – The Case Against Lyndon B. Johnson and J. Edgar Hoover, © Phillip F. Nelson/Skyhorse Publishing. Pub. Date: April 17, 2018.