Martin Luther King, Jr. was a famous Civil Rights leader who spoke out for racial equality in the 1950’s and 1960’s. He first became famous when he organized the bus boycott in Montgomery, Alabama, which helped end the practice of having separate facilities for whites and blacks. His most famous speech was “I Have a Dream” where he stated his vision for everyone to equally live together in harmony and not be judged by their skin color, but for the type of person they are in society. He was very well educated with Degrees in theology and sociology and had a doctorate. He received the Nobel Peace Prize in 1964. At that same time, President Lyndon Johnson signed the Civil Rights Act.
In 1968, Martin Luther King, Jr. traveled to Memphis, TN to help settle a “pro-labor” dispute. The city’s sanitation department that was comprised mostly of black workers, with the exception of the white drivers, wanted to unionize. When King was at the young age of 39, someone shot him. A bullet went through his right cheek towards his spinal cord and shoulder on April 4, 1968, while King was standing on the balcony of the Lorraine Motel’s second floor. He was pronounced dead.
Many theories and controversies surround Martin Luther King, Jr.’s death. James Earl Ray was caught and sent to jail for his murder, but many think his involvement was a conspiracy. Ray had a very sketchy past. He served a short time in the military, and then was put in prison for theft. He was able to escape prison through the assistance of another prisoner by sneaking out in box filled with bread. He changed his identity, and even had plastic surgery on his nose to disguise himself. One of the events that many say contributes to the conspiracy theory is that the media released incorrect fingerprints when they published Ray’s “Wanted” pictures.
But many details of the murder were linked to Ray. He was often seen in the same places as King, so it seemed as though he was stalking him. Ray also had purchased a similar weapon and vehicle as to the ones seen after the incident. A man matching his description ran down the street after the shot. Also, Ray did not pass any lie detector tests stating that he did not kill Martin Luther King, Jr. Most of the facts appear that he was the guilty party. In fact, all of the lawyers that he hired convinced him not to go to court. The convinced him to plead guilty and resolve the matter out of court in order to avoid the death penalty. He pled guilty, his case never went to trial, and he spent the rest of his life in jail for the murder, eventually dying in prison. The fact that no one wanted Ray to go to court to tell his side of the story is an argument for the theorists that Ray was framed by the government.
Some theorists claim that the government was involved with Ray’s death. Martin Luther King, Jr. spoke out against the war, and was alleged to have communist ties. He challenged the government system, which many in Washington D.C. did not like. Evidence shows that Attorney General Robert Kennedy directed the FBI to observe King due to concern about his alleged socialist and communist ties. The results of this surveillance is still kept hidden from view, but some noted that the government was threatening King to stop his demonstrations, or they would release proof of his extra-marital affairs. J. Edgar Hoover, particularly hated people who challenged the government system.
Despite the fact that Ray was convicted of the crimes, Lloyd Jowers claimed on National Television in 1993 that he was part of a conspiracy to kill Martin Luther King, Jr. He owned the restaurant that overlooked the Lorraine Motel at the time of King’s death. Some think that he made this claim to get money and publicity, and that he wanted to land a movie deal about the incident. King’s family took Jowers to court, and won the case.
Most of the facts point to Ray being the killer. So many controversies surround the case, and much of the facts are restricted. Therefore, no one will ever truly know who actually killed Martin Luther King, Jr., unless more details are revealed.