Assassinations / MLK

Lane, Mark and Gregory, Dick. Murder in Memphis: The FBI and the Assassination of Martin Luther King. New York: Thunder's Mouth Press, 1993. 310 pages.

This book is an updated and expanded edition of "Code Name Zorro," published in 1977 by Prentice-Hall. The eight chapters by Dick Gregory concern the life and times of Martin Luther King, and the remaining 21 chapters by Mark Lane present evidence that King's assassination was the work of a conspiracy involving federal and local officials.

Some of the territory covered by Lane includes: 1) the FBI's many efforts to discredit King; 2) the pressures placed on James Earl Ray by his attorney, Percy Foreman, to plead guilty; 3) the lack of physical evidence connecting Ray to the assassination (the rifle has not been positively matched to the bullet, for example); 4) the story of eyewitness Grace Stephens, who said Ray wasn't the person she saw and was immediately taken by police to a mental institution; 5) the suspicious events which caused King to transfer to the Lorraine Motel; 6) the removal of police protection on the day of the assassination, including the transfer of two black firemen from the station across from the Lorraine; and 7) the curious experience of detective Ed Redditt, who was pulled off the protection detail two hours before the assassination under circumstances which suggested the involvement of several federal intelligence agencies.

Melanson, Philip H. The Murkin Conspiracy: An Investigation into the Assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. New York: Praeger Publishers, 1989. 203 pages. (An expanded and updated edition was published in 1991 under the title "The Martin Luther King Assassination" by Shapolsky Publishers.)

Although Philip Melanson is better known for his work on the Robert Kennedy assassination, he is also acquainted with the MLK assassination. Other MLK researchers include Harold Weisberg, Mark Lane, and William Pepper.

In 1978 a House committee concluded that King was assassinated by a conspiracy, but that it didn't involve the FBI. Their circumstantial evidence pointed to right-wing individuals based in St. Louis. But Melanson points out that in Toronto, James Earl Ray used as aliases the names of four men who lived there. Even though he had never been to Toronto before 1968, the names used by Ray looked like him, and two had left a paper trail with officials in the same southern U.S. states where Ray had traveled. Melanson doubts that the unsophisticated Ray could have chosen these aliases by himself.

(At the end of 1993 a Memphis businessman, Loyd Jowers, confessed to involvement in the MLK conspiracy, and implicated organized crime and the FBI. Jowers said Ray was a patsy. As of this writing in January 1994, the Memphis district attorney has opened a new investigation, but has refused to grant immunity to Jowers as a condition for further information.)

Pepper, William F. Orders to Kill: The Truth Behind the Murder of Martin Luther King. New York: Carroll & Graf, 1995. 537 pages.

Normally we avoid books on the 1960s assassinations that contain the word "Truth" in the title. This one, however, does not exaggerate. Pepper was an associate of Martin Luther King in 1967-68. After the assassination he abandoned politics until 1977, when Ralph Abernathy asked him to see James Earl Ray. Over the last 18 years, Pepper and his investigators have located and interviewed witnesses long forgotten or long ignored, tracked down numerous leads, and reconstructed the conspiracy. One or two of these witnesses have confessed to complicity, while others have mentioned their involvement to other witnesses. To put it bluntly, Pepper is close enough to the truth that it will never make the cover of Newsweek, and his client James Earl Ray will never get out of prison.

The culprits in this horror story are organized crime, FBI director J. Edgar Hoover, U.S. military intelligence, and some spineless or corrupted petty officials in Tennessee, from the Memphis police to the court system. They all worked together. Ray was merely hired to be at a particular place at a particular time, without knowing why. Although the triggerman was contracted by organized crime, the U.S. military had a team of snipers in place as back-up. It's frightening how close we were to fascism in 1968 -- and may be still.

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