Some close family members of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. have long maintained their doubts regarding the official story of Dr. King’s assassination.
King’s daughter Bernice — echoing the sentiment of her late mother Coretta Scott King — believes that King was felled by a malevolent conspiracy. In fact, Bernice, who runs the King Center, outright said that convicted assassin James Earl Ray was a patsy.
King’s assassination never sparked truther theories as widespread as those of the Kennedy brothers Jack and Bobby, but nevertheless might warrant more scrutiny as the years go on.
For the King family and others in the civil rights movement, the FBI’s obsession with King in the years leading up to his slaying in Memphis on April 4, 1968 — pervasive surveillance, a malicious disinformation campaign and open denunciations by FBI director J. Edgar Hoover — laid the groundwork for their belief that he was the target of a plot.
“It pains my heart,” said Bernice King, 55, the youngest of Martin Luther King’s four children and the executive director of the King Center in Atlanta, “that James Earl Ray had to spend his life in prison paying for things he didn’t do.”
Until her own death in 2006, Coretta Scott King, who endured the FBI’s campaign to discredit her husband, was open in her belief that a conspiracy led to the assassination. Her family filed a civil suit in 1999 to force more information into the public eye, and a Memphis jury ruled that the local, state and federal governments were liable for King’s death. The full transcript of the trial remains posted on the King Center’s website.
“There is abundant evidence,” Coretta King said after the verdict, “of a major, high-level conspiracy in the assassination of my husband.” The jury found the mafia and various government agencies “were deeply involved in the assassination. … Mr. Ray was set up to take the blame.”
King’s two other surviving children, Dexter, 57, and Martin III, 60, fully agree that Ray was innocent. And their view of the case is shared by other respected black leaders.
Washington Post passage ends
Dr. King was a Christian, and so his political activism never fit neatly into Right or Left categories. He advocated for peaceful resistance, like Gandhi, which is arguably the bravest thing an activist can do in this very violent world.
On this Martin Luther King Day, we recognize a man who put his faith and his sense of right and wrong above the petty concerns of politics in order to enact lasting change — the kind of change that the political establishment never expected to see, and never wanted to embrace.
Here is Dr. King explaining how to remain brave in the face of constant threats, following the 1963 assassination of President John F. Kennedy:
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