Having written, along with Stu Wexler, one of the most contemporary books on the King assassination, it’s surprising to me that I rarely blog about Dr. King, his murder or the related conspiracy – and certainly there was a conspiracy in his murder, one that had been ongoing for some four years at that point in time.
The common failure to acknowledge the true nature of that conspiracy truly undervalues his steadfast refusal to turn anything other than peaceful pursuit of his cause – and having been there during that period of time, I can swear to how frequently various movements were tempted to respond to violence with violence. Unfortunately by 1968 Dr. King was becoming one of the few leaders still arguing for totally passive resistance. That stance was costing him followers among the young but more significantly it was making him an even more attractive target for the clique that had been trying to kill him since 1964.
Regardless of what you may have read (or worse yet seen on YouTube) Dr. King was not viewed as a danger in 1968, other than in the mind of FBI Director Hoover, who was himself drawing increasing distain and even jibes about his personal obsession with Dr. King. In contrast the anti-war movement was increasingly viewed as almost an existential danger, it led to the virtual resignation of President Johnson, a level of paranoia rarely since outside the McCarthy era (and today’s election campaigning) and a domestic intelligence/active harassment response that very few people still appreciate.
What is even less appreciated is the fact that rather than being a major threat as of the spring of 1968, Dr. King was struggling to maintain his non-violent approach and to extend it to Washington. That effort had become burdened by the violence that accompanied his offer to lead a sanitation worker protest march in Memphis; he had agreed out of personal friendship but the resulting rioting raised real concerns as to whether he could indeed carry out a massive peaceful protest in the nation’s capital – and that led him back to Memphis in April, 1968, to prove that he could carry that off and to essentially prove that peaceful resistance was still workable.
Unfortunately what was a challenge for Dr. King proved to be an irresistible opportunity for those who had been working on killing him, individuals who had tried it themselves with guns and bombs and when that failed had turned to actual bounties, extended through their prison contacts. The story of that effort, and the involvement of James Earl Ray, is what we tell in The Awful Grace of God and in Killing King. And we continue our work on that conspiracy, new leads and new corroboration continue to emerge and we are still actively engaged in that research.
So, since I rarely blog on the subject, in respect to the upcoming observance of Dr. King, I’ll be happy to take questions on the subject here on the blog or privately if you wish to email me at larryjoe@westok.net I’ll tackle the questions, leaving Stu to continue with the slogging research work, he’s younger and should have more energy.


About Larry Hancock

Larry Hancock is a leading historian-researcher in the JFK assassination. Co-author with Connie Kritzberg of November Patriots and author of the 2003 research analysis publication titled also Someone Would Have Talked. In addition, Hancock has published several document collections addressing the 112th Army Intelligence Group, John Martino, and Richard Case Nagell. In 2000, Hancock received the prestigious Mary Ferrell New Frontier Award for the contribution of new evidence in the Kennedy assassination case. In 2001, he was also awarded the Mary Ferrell Legacy Award for his contributions of documents released under the JFK Act.

2 responses »

  1. David says:

    Will you post what you believe is proven and disproven and what you believe is probable?

    • Proven: A violent, radical racist group in Mississippi plotted and attempted a series of attacks on MLK for some four years prior to his assassination. They failed largely due to his constantly changing travel and appearance schedule. The same group successfully conducted bombings and shooting attacks against other civil rights organizers and leaders, ultimately several of its members and its leader were convicted and jailed for such attacks. The same group extended a bounty offer on MLK through a series of criminal contacts, with the first accepted attack aborting in 1964 due to their failure to raise sufficient cash immediately prior to the attack. That same offer was extended again, to individuals connected to the first plot and the offer became live again in 1967. The offer was being circulated in Federal prison systems including the one Ray escaped from and their is strong circumstantial evidence he was aware of both the offer and the group extending it.

      Proven: James Earl Ray trailed MLK for weeks prior to the assassination, he purchased a rifle which was in his possession in Memphis. While that rifle cannot be uniquely tied to the shooting itself, that and other evidence strongly suggests that James Earl Ray, as he himself in confessed, was involved in a conspiracy to attack MLK. In his personal statement to the court, in addition to his confession, he also maintained that he had not acted alone and that the governments position that there was no conspiracy was false. What cannot absolutely be proven is that Ray was the shooter.

      Circumstantial evidence but not proof establishes a connection between Ray and the bounty offer and adds details on the funding and movement of money for the offer. Other circumstantial evidence (but not absolute proof) suggests that Ray attempted to collect some of those funds after the assassination but failed to do so, leaving him with the only option of returning to a plan he had developed a year before, to exit overseas via Canada.

      In short, we believe that a very specific, and well detailed conspiracy has been proven to exist, that it can be traced through several years and several iterations to the offer which came to Ray’s attention. We also believe that it can be proven that Ray was directly involved with the shooting and in touch with others in regard to collecting money for his role – whether his role was as an enabler or the actual shooter is still an open question to us. The absolute detail of the connection between Ray and the bounty offer is still circumstantial although we offer options for how that may have occurred in The Awful Grace of God.

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