Forget the Government Conspiracy

King deserved a better ending than one at the hand of a two-bit punk, but James Earl Ray is really the little man who killed the big dreamer.


Forget the conspiracy theories that claim Martin Luther King Jr.’s assassination was the result of a government plot. Lyndon Johnson, the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and the FBI had nothing to do with it. James Earl Ray killed King. If any organization was involved, it was more likely the KKK than the CIA.

That’s the conclusion I’ve reached after decades of pondering every scrap of information I could find about King’s murder, including the so-called proof about a supposed high-level government plot put forth by King’s family and Ray’s last attorney, William F. Pepper.

There’s not enough space to go into all of the evidence that points the finger squarely at Ray. It includes the undisputed facts that he bought the rifle that was found at the scene of the crime, rented a room that overlooked King’s motel and had been stalking his victim for weeks. (For an exhaustive and thoroughly convincing rebuttal of conspiratorial speculations about the case, check out Killing The Dream by Gerald Posner.

But the main reasons for my skepticism about the conspiracy theories are two essential truths that some people just can’t seem to grasp: It didn’t make a massive movement of troops, intelligence agencies and Mafia hit men to do away with the revered civil rights leaders. And there was a group deeply engaged in the systematic murder of uppity blacks like King. It was called the Ku Klux Klan.

The simple fact is that killing King would have been easy, almost routine.

He had no bodyguard or police protection. His whereabouts in Memphis on the day he was killed had been published in the local news media. The Lorraine Motel, where he was slain, had an exposed concrete walkway where he would have been vulnerable to being shot from a nearby flophouse where Ray had a room. All a concealed gunman had to do was aim, pull the trigger and get away in the confusion.

I believe that’s what Ray did.

Lone gunmen have perpetrated plenty of political shootings. Five years before King was cut down , a Klansman named Byron de la Beckwith slaughtered NAACP Field Secretary Medgar Evers as he got out of his car at his home in Jackson, Mississippi. De la Beckwith was acting alone.

So was a nut case named John Hinckley, who nearly killed Ronald Reagan even though he had Secret Service protection. If de la Beckwith and Hinckley could do what they did without help from a massive conspiracy, why is it so hard to believe that Ray acted alone?