April 4, 1968-Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. is assassinated as he stands on the balcony in front of room 306 at the Lorraine Hotel in Memphis, Tennessee. That same night, Senator Robert F. Kennedy (D-New York) gives what is considered by many to be the best speech of his career on the back of a pickup truck to a crowd of stunned and angry supporters. A drifter and ex-convict by the name of James Earl Ray is arrested at Heathrow Airport in London after a manhunt and extradited back to the United States. Following his indictment, he pleads guilty to the crime, but many questions about his motive and actions continue to go unanswered. The murder of Dr. King and of President Kennedy would be the subject to investigation by the House Select Committee on Assassinations. And although the investigations revealed new evidence in both murders, new suspects and evidence of a probable conspiracy in President Kennedy’s murder, the complete truth about both murders continues to elude the American public.
Decades have passed since Dr. King’s murder and the official story still stands. But this book by William F. Pepper will challenge everything you thought you knew about the murder and his alleged assassin James Earl Ray. The Freedom of Information Act completely changed the face of investigative reporting and gave citizens of all professions and walks of life a powerful tool in their efforts to learn the truth about historical events in which disturbing questions still linger. The FBI, under the tutelage and direction of J. Edgar Hoover, conducted illegal domestic wiretapping and surveillance on American citizens, political organizations and figures. The infamous COINTEL program cast a dark cloud over the agency and re-enforced the suspicions and concerns of an agency out of control.
1968 was a tumultuous year with the Vietnam war raging and American involvement increasingly escalating. Social tensions brimming under the surface resulted in race riots across the country and the murders of John F. Kennedy and Medgar Evars were still fresh in the minds of civil rights activists and citizens deeply concerned about the direction in which their country was headed. Destined to break with the Johnson administration, King’s opposition to the Vietnam war, his rhetoric and social standing sent chills down the spines of the politicians in Washington and the military industrial complex. Unwilling to tolerate civil unrest at home, the government began to increase domestic surveillance using MIGs (Military Intelligence Groups), the CIA, FBI, ONI and NSA. Their trail of King would lead them to Memphis where fate would take over resulting in the tragic events on April 4. Ray’s conviction seemed simple enough, he pleaded guilty as recommended by then attorney Percy Foreman and sits in jail to this day. However, as Pepper’s reveals, the guilty plea and evidence presented, both crumble under intense scrutiny and there were events that transpired that day unrelated to James Earl Ray. Over the years, Ray has given many accounts of his actions that day and none are in tune with those of a lone nut. Portrayed as a stone cold killer and rabid racist, he was convicted in the court of public opinion even before he set foot in a courtroom. Pepper’s investigation unearths a mountain of evidence and cast strong doubt on Ray’s guilt and forces the reader to re-examine everything he/she thought they knew about one of the most infamous murders in American history.
There’s an entire cast of characters in the book, including President Johnson, J. Edgar Hoover, H.L. Hunt and Carlos Marcello. The web of intrigue between these once powerful figures is nothing short of spell-binding and disturbing. A common question Americans ask one another is who really controls this country? I believe that investigations into the murders of President Kennedy, Senator Robert F. Kennedy and Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., will provide insight into the machinations of the U.S. Government and show what true power really is. Had Dr. King lived to this day, he’d be 86 years of age and we can only guess as to what he would think of the current state of our country. Next month is the national holiday for his birthday, but this year, the celebration will have a different meaning for myself and I’m sure others that have read this book. I no longer question why he was murdered but question what if he had not been.