The Associated Press is reporting that long-forgotten photos that show James Earl Ray being brought to jail after his arrest for assassinating Martin Luther King Jr. were unveiled Wednesday to commemorate the 43rd anniversary of the civil rights leader’s death.
Dozens of the striking black-and-white photos, along with letters Ray wrote from jail and other documents, were found in 2007 among old county records in a warehouse in east Memphis, Tenn., Shelby County Register Tom Leatherwood said. A few photos were posted on the Commercial Appeal’s website to accompany a story published Wednesday, and Leatherwood planned to make the rest available on a county website later in the day.
One of the photos shows Ray being patted down by an officer, with his back to the camera and his arms spread out wide. Another shows the bespectacled Ray being led into the jail in handcuffs, wearing what appears to be a bulletproof vest.
Leatherwood said the documents don’t offer any startling new revelations about the assassination but do provide a detailed snapshot of a pivotal moment in the nation’s civil rights history. Most were never seen by the public. Leatherwood tried for about three years to make them available, and the county attorney approved their release six weeks ago, he told the Associated Press.
Ray died in prison in 1998, but he had signed a document authorizing their release in the late 1970s, Leatherwood said.
That’s the least he could do. Like it or not, James Earl Ray is an important figure in history, and these photos and letters will allow people to know more about him.