“The Plot to Kill King – The Truth Behind the Assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr.” by William Pepper, 2018
Forget fake murder mysteries. Forgot fake drama. Forget unsourced conspiracies, conjectures and magical thinking. This is the real stuff. This is evidence. This is the definitive description of the victory of the security state in the 1960s. The murder solved, after almost 50 years of legal trials, depositions, affidavits, testimony and just plain common sense. The FBI, the military, the Dixie Mafia, the power structure of Memphis, the corporate media, even SCLC informants – all involved in the assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr.
After all, who had motive, who had opportunity, who had the means, who had the power to kill a leader of the black community that was fast becoming a national and international anti-war leader and a fighter for the rights of labor – in short an anti-capitalist? And then to stage an extensive and long running cover-up? Some sad petty criminal? A ‘fall guy”? Another patsy? A guy who was at a gas station when the fatal shot was fired? A man who declared his innocence for 30 years? Think about it. J. Edgar Hoover, head of the FBI, was the person who most hated MLK. Hoover and the government considered MLK a 'communist.' And 'the only good communist is a dead one,' as the quaint phrase went. The trail of FBI break-ins, surveillance, media plants, disinformation and plots against King, tracked by even the corporate media, are only the tip of this iceberg. If you had a real police investigation, Hoover would be suspect Numero Uno. But alas, few want to go there. Below water in the coldest part of the iceberg is a scoped rifle in the hands of a racist, macho Memphis police officer, crouched in the bushes across from the Lorraine Motel. With backup from military intelligence, the mayor and police chief of Memphis, the New Orleans mob, the chief doctor at the hospital, FBI handlers and FBI-influenced media and authors which to this day retail the flimsy ‘official’ story.
Here is the truth. Searing as it is and instructive as it is to anyone who challenges the U.S. power structure. Learn and be forewarned. As Pepper says, “…with respect to the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr., no act, no matter how heinous, by any public official is unthinkable.”
THE OFFICIAL STORY
Pepper initially believed the official story about James Earl Ray being the assassin. However, after interviewing him years later in prison, he changed his mind. The man was quiet, believable and not a bigot. This book is the story of trying to prove the innocence of Ray, and since the state had no interest in doing that, Pepper had to instead prove who really did it. In the process, familiar break-ins, bribes, stolen information, murders, planted and distorted news stories, legal maneuvers, frightened or planted witnesses, bought judges, intimidation and years-long FBI efforts to silence Pepper followed. As people told him time and time again, ‘You don’t know who you are dealing with here.”
Throughout the book, I tracked 112 facts that contradict the official version of the assassination, which was based on the scanty evidence of one very drunk ‘eyewitness,’ a bag containing the wrong gun and some personal effects, and a poor and obstructed ‘shooter location.’ Ray initially ‘confessed’ under heavy intimidation, then quickly reversed his plea, and that was all the state needed to have him die in jail years later, although he was supposed to be eliminated quickly. The ‘fall guy’ strategy worked to a T, using only 4 falsities.
Pepper’s investigation included a civil trial years later in which Lloyd Jowers, the City of Memphis and the Federal Government were declared responsible for the murder by a jury. Only one person from the local press covered the trial, almost completing a news blackout. After the trial, it was attacked as a ‘fraud’ by FBI–influenced journalists who had not attended. At this trial, the King family worked to clear Ray’s name, as they too had come to believe that MLK was killed by the government with the help of the mob.
Pepper, in a prior 1995 book “Orders to Kill,” named the assassin as Earl Clark, a sharpshooter and lieutenant in the Memphis Police Department (MPD.) After getting further evidence, in this book Pepper names Frank Strausser, another MPD marksman, as the actual shooter, with Earl Clark kneeling by his side. Lloyd Jowers, mob-connected owner of nearby Jim’s Grill, handled the rifle and payoff as part of the killing. The Mayor of Memphis, Henry Loeb; MPD chief and former FBI agent Frank Hollomon and Frank Liberto, local Dixie Mafia boss, all organized the hit locally. Chief deputy to FBI head J. Edgar Hoover Chuck Tolson was their liaison with the FBI. The FBI procured the weapon in Oregon, and oversaw Ray’s handler, a New Orleans mafia gunrunner named Raul Coelho. The FBI broke Ray out of prison prior to the assassination as part of the set-up. They then tried to kill Ray in prison after he was convicted, including setting up another prison break so they could hunt him down. This was only stopped at the last minute by the intervention of the Governor of the state.
Military intelligence groups – including Special Forces Alpha 184 - were involved, triangulating King from high rooftops around the Lorraine. A military Psy Ops team photographed the killing from across the street on the roof of a fire station and their photos caught the real assassin. One of the many witnesses who saw Earl Clark jump down from the bushes after the shot and get into a nearby MPD car was killed that same evening by a local mob enforcer, Chess Butler. Even the head surgeon at the hospital which had been pre-chosen to transport King, St. Josephs Hospital, a Dr. Breen Bland, was connected to the plotters and made sure King did not survive the emergency room. The plot went according to plan.
The saddest and most controversial aspects of this plot are that there is some evidence that 3 people in the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC) group accompanying King to Memphis were also helping the FBI. One of them, Reverend Kyles, was the one that knocked on King’s door right before 6:00 PM, then moved far down the balcony away from King’s room. Another was … Jesse Jackson, who according to testimony, arranged to have King’s room changed from a secure location on the first floor interior of the motel up to a room on the exposed balcony. The man kneeling over King right after the kill shot was also connected to the government. Jackson was on the right-wing of the SCLC and might have opposed King’s widening opposition to the Vietnam war, labor support and a pledge to bring thousands of poor people to Washington D.C. – something which terrified the ruling elite.
Anyone reading this book will remark that the whole cast of characters and modus operandi seems similar to the hits on John Kennedy in Dallas and Robert Kennedy in LA. A southern city, the FBI, the mob, local police, the withdrawal of protection, a patsy, operating room manipulation, a shoddy cover-up, many bad facts, dead witnesses, a suppliant media, intimidation all around. Interestingly, this book indicates that Hoover started a deathly ‘Prayer List’ that included both Kennedys and later King. This was after the McCarthy hearings in the 1950s, as the Kennedys had turned against McCarthy, Hoover’s ally. Witnesses in this book even saw mobster Jack Ruby and gunrunner Raul Coelho together in New Orleans. Another close witness quotes LBJ as saying that he would never be humiliated again 'by that bastard,' a few days before JFK was killed. Pepper did not want to go there, which makes sense for this case.
Another dark secret is that the racist Mayor Loeb wanted to lure MLK to Memphis and to do that, he pushed the sanitation workers into a strike by ignoring their demands. The crushing of two black sanitation workers in a garbage truck while they hid from the rain was also intentional, so as to create even more of a crisis.
WHAT ACTUALLY HAPPENED
This is a description of how it actually happened. The most direct shot to the balcony of the Lorraine was not from a cramped high rooming house bathroom with tree branches in front (as the official story goes), but from bushes right across the street, on top of a wall higher than the Lorraine balcony. A number of witnesses confirmed the shot and activity came from there. The shooter, Strausser, a beefy bigot and thumper, practiced shooting at the MPD range all morning. He parked at the nearby fire station, then went around into the empty lot. All normal police protection had been withdrawn from King. With Strausser were Clark and Jowers - the latter got muddy pants from kneeling in the bushes. A backup shooter was in the rooming house, along with the military teams on the other buildings. James Earl Ray himself had driven to a garage to get a tire on his white Mustang fixed and knew nothing of what was going on. Witnesses say the bundle with the decoy gun was dropped in the doorway of Canipe Amusement company next to Jim’s Grill right before 6 PM, by either Raul or one of the local mafia fixers by the name of Adkins.
Just after 6 PM, Strausser shot King in the mouth with one shot. Jowers immediately ran into his café, Jim’s Grill, and was seen by a witness as he brought the death weapon in and broke it down. Clark jumped down from the bushes, ran up the street and got in an MPD car, and was seen by many. Strausser left size 13 footprints in the muddy earth, and probably got away through the back lot. The next day the police ordered the bushes cut down and trees trimmed, contravening any crime scene methods and making the supposed ‘shot’ from the rooming house unobstructed. The police traced the rooming house registration and the bundle to Ray. All other evidence has been ignored, destroyed or downplayed by Congress, law enforcement and the criminal courts. The plot went off – the only hitches being Ray, Pepper and the truth. A ‘pay log’ for the plot, with Raul’s name on it, was later found, but the government could not admit Raul even existed. It is actually amazing how sloppy and open the whole thing was, but they figured they were immune. Pepper ultimately produced 70 witnesses that contradicted this government ‘open secret.'
This book is required reading on MLK Day or any other. The gauzy “I Have A Dream” media representation of King trotted out once each year hides a far more radical reality, a “Christ-like” leader who was becoming a threat to the whole U.S. system - and was crucified by that same system.
Other reviews on this topic, below: “”Orders to Kill,” “They Killed Our President,” “The Strange Death of Paul Wellstone,” “Finks,” “The Devils Chessboard,” “American Made” and “Kill the Messenger.” Use blog search box, upper left.
And I bought it at May Day Books!
First published November 2, 2018
Now January 17, 2022, MLK Day