On this day in 1968, Martin Luther King Jr was assassinated by James Earl Ray. But did the man with three first names really do it? After all, he spent the last three decades of his life claiming that he didn’t actually do it. Could it have been some conspiracy where he was just the unwitting fall guy? In a word: no.
Ray was an evil man. I’m not referring to his convictions for armed robbery, burglary, and fraud by his mid-20s. These are generally the acts of people without a lot of options. Of course, I have to wonder about that. He was a white man in the 1950s. There was lots of work around at that time. But when he wasn’t in jail or actively thieving, his main interest seemed to be in seeing that George Wallace became president. “Segregation now, segregation tomorrow, and segregation forever!” Am I right?!
In 1959, Ray was given 20 years for yet another armed robbery. But in 1967, he escaped. But he didn’t go into hiding; he went to work for George Wallace’s campaign. And he wasn’t exactly alone in his support for the segregationist. Wallace got 13.5% for the popular vote — 46 votes in the electoral college. But apparently, Ray got bored with this work, made his way to Tennessee and assassinated the civil rights leader with one shot.
Authorities found the rifle that Ray had purchased five days earlier. It had his fingerprints on it. Ballistic tests done a decade later were inconclusive. But witnesses saw a man who looked like him leaving the scene. He had been living in a room where the bullet came from. He fled the country immediately after. Oh, and he confessed. Then later, after trying to convince everyone, he took a lie detector test for Playboy magazine. The results: James Earl Ray murdered Martin Luther King Jr.
We mark this 47th anniversary of the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr.