The Killing, Conspiracy, and Coverup of Martin Luther King Jr.

What was the real story of King’s assassination?


Photo of King from the Nobel Foundation Archive.

Mitchell Thompson, Reporter

Martin Luther King Jr. was one of the most influential people in all of American history. He was the leader of the Civil Rights Movement, and gave some of the most famous speeches of all time. However, in 1968 he was assassinated by a crazy southern racist, and unfortunately never lived to see the fruits of his labor. At least, that’s what went in the history books. In 1999, the family of Martin Luther King Jr. opened a civil lawsuit against Loyd Jowers and other unknown parties involved. They claimed that it was not one man who killed King, but rather multiple different parties that came together to assassinate him. The interesting part is, they won. So, what evidence did they use? What really happened? To find that out, let’s first look at the official telling of the story.


On April 4, 1968, King was staying at the Lorraine Motel in Memphis Tennessee a day after giving his famous “I’ve been to the mountaintop” speech. He was looking over the balcony to talk to two of his friends, when a bullet struck him in the right cheek. He was knocked out, and later died in the St. Joseph’s hospital. The killer was found to be a man named James Earl Ray, who had shot King from 70-80 yards across the street on the second floor of a boarding house he rented a room in the night before. After taking the shot, Ray went to his room, grabbed all his things, tied them in a bedsheet, and ran outside. When he got outside, he was surprised that police were already in the area, so he panicked, dropped his belongings including his gun, and ran back to his white Mustang to drive away. Ray was caught while trying to flee the country, and he pled guilty in court. His motive was that he was a poor man and a racist who was trying to claim a bounty.


This seems pretty airtight, right? Not only did the police find Ray’s fingerprints on the gun, but there was also a witness who saw Ray run out of the bathroom he shot from, holding the gun. Here’s where this story starts to seem strange. Three days after pleading guilty, Ray fired his lawyer. He claimed that his lawyer told him to plead guilty, because the lawyer claimed if the court wouldn’t kill him, someone else would. The lawyer also threatened to intentionally sabotage the case if Ray didn’t plead guilty. Ray’s new claim was that he accidentally assisted in the murder, and he was just a part of a bigger plan.


Before we get to the big plan, here are a few things that should have been brought up in court, but never were. For one thing, the gun Ray was said to have shot has to this day never been matched to the bullet. If it had been, it would 100% prove if Ray’s gun was the one that killed King or not. Also, there was never an autopsy performed on King. Another thing was that Ray’s white Mustang was never reported by the police. Also, Ray’s fingerprints were never found in the room he was said to have stayed at, or in the bathroom, he was said to have shot from. Even if he was in the bathroom, he would have had to stand on a bathtub to reach the window and hunch down at a very uncomfortable angle to get a clear shot. Even if he did that, there was a huge tree blocking the window, which gave no possible shot. This tree was cut down the night of the assassination by the Memphis Police Department to “help with the investigation.” And EVEN if he managed to see and shoot through the tree, there was no way he was able to hit King from the second floor he was on. The shot had to have come from a lower elevation to hit King’s cheek the way it did.


What about the witness who saw Ray though? Well, his name was Charles Stevens. Sevens was notorious with the police for being arrested 155 times for alcohol related charges. In fact, Stevens was drunk on the day he claimed to have seen Ray. He actually never came to the police with his witness testimony until after a $10,000 bounty was put up for information about King’s killer. While in an interview, Stevens was shown a picture of Ray. Upon seeing this picture, he told the interviewer in detail why the man in the picture was not the man he saw at the scene. Again, this was the FBI’s lead witness. Were there any other witnesses though? Well, yes, but they all had very different stories than Stevens did.


Dozens of other witnesses said the shot came from the bushes right at the foot of the boarding house, under the bathroom window. Many also claimed they saw a short man run from the bushes and onto the sidewalk, who then blended into the crowd. One witness was even on the second floor while King was assassinated. He said he looked into the bathroom where Ray was said to have been, and saw nobody there. He then walked only a few feet to his room before he heard a shot from outside the building. Therefore, Ray must have gotten into the bathroom, into an uncomfortable position, and shot King in only a few seconds. All of these witnesses were told by police that they were mistaken, and the shot came from the boarding house. Not one person whose testimony refuted the official story appeared in court.

Photo of James Earl Ray from the Federal Bureau of prisons.

Now, up until now you might have had some image in your head of what kind of man Ray was, but I assure you that he is no criminal mastermind. He was described by his family to be a bit dumb, and only took part in small, unplanned crimes. Also, Ray had a black girlfriend for a while, making it unlikely he was truly a racist. In World War 2, he was a part of the Office of Strategic Services, which later became the CIA. He was just barely allowed in though, because he scored the lowest possible score on his marksmanship test, while still being able to join. When he was part of the service though, he had a desk job, and entered no combat. He was discharged due to his ineptitude, and was arrested for armed robbery only a year later. While in prison, he attempted to escape multiple times, but never received punishment when he was caught. However, he was able to escape after serving about 18 years by hiding in an empty box that was loaded onto a truck. What happened next is the testimony of Ray.


After he escaped, Ray soon met a man who went by Raul. Raul and Ray soon became business partners, who worked together to sell guns to Communist Cuban militants hiding in America. Raul funded Ray and gave him helpful gifts such as fake passports. Also, Raul gave Ray the money to get his mustang, which explains why a poor man could have such a nice car.  One day, Raul told Ray to buy a specific gun to show some of the Cubans for a business deal. This was the exact gun found at the crime scene. When Ray went to buy the gun, he bought the wrong caliber and had to return it. The person at the counter testified this was true, and also claimed Ray knew very little about guns in general.


He met back with Raul at a bar called Jim’s Grill, where he was told to reserve the room above the grill for a meeting with the Cubans. This room was the room he reserved the night before King’s assassination. Raul told Ray that if anything went wrong, Ray needed to be outside to be Raul’s getaway driver. Therefore, he never needed to go up to the room. While he was waiting for Raul to finish the deal, he heard the shot that killed Martin Luther King Jr. Raul ran out of the building and they sped away. Ray only thought the deal went bad, he had no idea King was just assassinated. When they were just outside of Memphis, Raul jumped out the back seat window, and James never saw him again.


While Ray was driving, he heard on the radio that King was shot, and that the police were looking for his exact car. After hearing this, Ray drove to Atlanta to get out of trouble. There, he met a person only known as Fat Man. Fat Man gave him a bunch of money and new passports, and was never seen again. Ray then used the money and passports to flee the country after finding out he was a wanted man. He was later arrested and put in court.


This explains a lot of the loose ends this case had. It explained his fake passports, his suspiciously nice car, why his fingerprints were found on the gun and not in the boarding house, why the room was reserved in his name, why he was at the scene, why he immediately fled the scene, and how he managed to escape for over two months. This also makes new inaccuracies, such as his bad marksmanship skills, his lack of gun knowledge, and him seemingly not being a racist. Sure, this may be the testimony of only one man, but not only is it completely impossible to debunk, but it was entirely told by one, slightly stupid man. He had no lawyers to help him come up with this, and he told it very quickly after being pressured, giving him almost no time to prepare a fake story. Again, this timeline makes him completely innocent (of murder), puts the blame on a higher agency, and also ties up every loose end this case had.


All loose ends, except one: who actually killed Martin Luther King Jr.? Well, the first suspect was Loyd Jowers, the owner of Jim’s Grill and the man the King family was initially suing. He was seen carrying a gun identical to Ray’s into Jim’s Grill, before hiding it and telling police he didn’t hear anything (despite the gunshot coming from directly outside). He later was talking to a business partner of his, when Jowers told him he was in charge of getting rid of the rifle. In 1993, he told ABC in an interview he was paid $100,000 by a known Mafia man named Frank Liberto to help with the murder. Liberto was known for disliking King, due to King telling workers in Liberto’s factory to fight for better working conditions. In fact, Ray’s first lawyer, the one who told him to plead guilty, was a Mafia man and public friend of Liberto. However, Liberto was not the killer. When asked who it really was, Jowers said it was Lieutenant Earl Clark from the Memphis Police Department.


Jowers was a former member of the Memphis police department, so he was trusted by his friends there. If the Memphis police were a part of this (which they were), they could trust Jowers. So, who is Earl Clark? Clark was a police lieutenant who was known to take bribes from the Mafia. In fact, he was friends with Liberto also. Another thing was that he was the highest rated marksman in the Memphis police department. According to Loyd, Earl took the shot, handed off the weapon, jumped over a nearby wall, and escaped in a white mustang. The night before the shooting, a janitor in the police building said Earl, the police chief, the mayor of Memphis, and police Lieutenant Strausser were all in a secret meeting late at night. Clark spent the whole day prior to the meeting at the shooting range, shooting his rifle over and over. This rifle matched the one Loyd said he was given. Who was Lieutenant Strausser though? Strausser was said to be a backup shooter, who was in the bushes with Earl. He didn’t take the shot, but certainly helped in the operation. After the shot was taken, they ran opposite directions and blended in with the panicked crowd.


So, did the Mafia pay the police department for the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr.? Well, yes, but that’s not the whole story. Danial Elsberg, the man who leaked the Pentagon Papers, swore that another agent told him in confidence that it was Jay Edger Hoover who had King killed. Jay Edger Hoover may sound familiar, and that’s because he was the director of the FBI at the time King was shot. So, how does the FBI tie into this? Well, King was doing his speeches and rallies during the Cold War, and at the height of the Red Scare even. The government was on high alert for any potential Communist uprisings, and King’s ideas were seen as some sort of Communist propaganda at the time. Even if not intentional, it was something that needed to be sorted out. The FBI and CIA were both looking to stop King’s movement, so they worked together to plan his assassination. Of course, they weren’t going to do it on their own, so they paid the Mafia to take care of the problem, providing help if needed. The Mafia then further delegated the Memphis police. What help did the CIA provide though? They provided someone to pin the whole thing on: James Earl Ray.


It seems that even after leaving the CIA, Ray was still being kept track of. This explains why he was never punished in prison for trying to escape, and how his actual escape was so easy. They wanted to get him out, so he could meet up with Raul, an undercover agent. Raul would then set Ray up to be King’s killer, and leave when he wasn’t needed. Ray would then meet Fat Man, another agent, who would fund Ray until his capture. Here’s some more proof. The bag of supplies and his gun Ray supposedly dropped at the scene of the crime, people claimed it was casually set there by a different man prior to King getting shot. Also, the reason Ray was portrayed as a racist was because of a book titled He Slew the Dreamer. This book was funded by the FBI to “make sure people knew the correct information.” On the day of the shooting, the FBI fully took over the investigation of King’s assassination. This made zero sense, because there was nothing found outside Tennessee that had to do with the case, so the Tennessee police should have handled it. It wouldn’t matter how big this case was.


If you think this is all just a crazy conspiracy, remember this story was used in a court of law and was deemed correct.


Here are some more things the FBI did. They tried to discredit King before they assassinated him, so they started bugging his hotel rooms. The bugging seemed to have come up somewhat useful, as the FBI believed they caught King committing extramarital affairs. They wrote him a letter telling King he should take his own life before 34 days are up, or else his secrets would be revealed. This deadline was obviously ignored.


King was staying in room 306 at the Lorraine Motel, where he was shot. King wanted to change his hotel room a few days earlier due to it being somewhat dangerous to be in a room that faced the street. He changed his room to 202, a more secluded room facing away from the road. However, someone called the hotel saying they were with King, and told the hotel to change the room back to 306. When King arrived at the hotel, everything was already booked, so King just went to 306. The caller was never identified.


James Earl Ray did try to get a retrial while he was in prison. His first lawyer for this trial supposedly killed himself 3 months after saying he would help James. The lawyer’s wife and many others said there was no reason he would have done that. Shortly after this, a judge said he would look into Ray’s retrial. That judge died of a heart attack soon after. Another judge who replaced the now deceased one also said James should be retried. He then died of a heart attack. The third judge denied a retrial without even looking at the evidence.


The House Select Committee of Assassinations was set to look over the assassinations of Martin Luther King Junior and John F. Kennedy to see if they were part of a conspiracy. One of their biggest witnesses was killed a few days prior to his appearance. He was shot in the middle of the woods by a man who “mistook him for a deer.” The Committee did not come to the conclusion that King’s assassination was a conspiracy, but years later it was revealed the person giving them the information to review was actually a CIA agent. Therefore, this verdict has been thrown out.


So that’s all the evidence that was presented at the King family vs. Loyd Jowers and other unknown co-conspirators trial. That’s right, this was all just a list of evidence. I don’t believe any of this at all. It was all a joke. Also, I have no intention of doing any harm to myself. Just thought I would say that for no reason, haha.


On December 8, 1999, the trial concluded. After seeing all of the evidence, it only took the jury 1 hour to come to the unanimous conclusion that Martin Luther King Jr. was not assassinated by James Earl Ray, but rather by a large conspiracy involving the FBI, CIA, the Mafia, and the Memphis police. The King family was awarded only $100, which they donated to charity. They wanted to prove a point, not earn any wealth from the case.


Unfortunately, James Earl Ray died in prison in 1998, so he was not released. However, he would still be charged for many other crimes, such as escaping prison and helping foreign adversaries. It’s important to remember Ray is not a good person. He was just less bad than everyone initially thought.


I think it’s a shame this trial and verdict didn’t get more publicity. No history books were changed, and most people don’t know about this side of the story. Even if you don’t believe it, Knowing about it is very important to forming your opinion. That’s what I intended to do here. If I couldn’t change your mind, then I at least made you aware of the opposing argument. Even if this is all wrong, I’m glad the King family got the answer they wanted. I suppose closure is what they really won in this case.