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The following year after this editorial was written, in 1999, a civil jury found a former Memphis businessman, Lloyd Jowers, guilty for his involvement in the conspiracy. The trial was held in Memphis and resulted in the testimony of key witnesses who revealed information about the murder in 1968. Of course there was never a criminal trial in the aftermath of the assassination because of the guilty plea which was given and later resinded by James Earl Ray. Ray later maintained that he was innocent of the killing and that he was a victim of an international conspiracy. Ray died in prison before he was able to win a new trial.
Pan-African News Wire, April 4, 1998
King's Legacy 30 Years After Memphis
Abayomi Azikiwe, Editor
Editorial Review, April 4, 1998, (PANW)-Thirty years ago today, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., was assassinated in Memphis, Tennessee. King, the leader of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC) and recognized as the most prominent leader within the U.S. based civil rights movement, was killed as he lended support to an African-American sanitation workers strike that had lasted for two months. King was the target of the federal government's counter-intelligence program(COINTELPRO) as was subjected to several previous atttempts aimed at neutralization and liquidation carried out by the Federal Bureau of
Investigation (FBI) under the leadership of the late J. Edgar
In recent days his widow, Coretta Scott King, has called for a re-opening of the investigation into the murder of her late husband. On April 3 at a news conference, she went as far as to say that individuals who have information on the murder should be granted immunity in exchange for their testimony related to the facts of the case. In addition, she again requested that James Earl Ray be given a trial in order to bring out all relevant evidence involving a possible conspiracy in the murder of the civil rights leader. This is a very timely and principled move on the part of Mrs. King and the King family who are now speaking openly and candidly about the notion of a conspiracy to assassinate Dr. King that involved the United States government at the highest levels.
King at the time of his murder was estranged from the American government for several reasons. One main bone of
contention between Dr. King and the Johnson administration was his complete opposition to the U.S. military intervention and occupation of Vietnam. Dr. King declared in 1967 that the U.S. government was the largest impediment to the realization of national self-determination and world peace on the international scene.
He called for a radical re-distribution of wealth in the United States which would involve the adoption of policies that would require a guaranteed annual income for all peoples in the country. At the time of his murder, Dr. King was poised to take severalthousand people to Washington, D.C. in order to demand immediate congressional action aimed at the alleviation of the suffering of poor people in America.
Although King never abandoned his commitment to non-violent social change, he was clearly moving towards an internationalist position that could have brought him to see the relevance and effectiveness of armed revolutionary struggle as a tactic designed to achieve the larger strategic goals of total emancipation from institutional racism, national oppresssion and economic exploitation. However, we will never know what may have been because of the machinations of the assassins in 1968. Did King's murder result from a broad conspiracy involving the FBI, racist business elements, army intelligence and the local government and law-enforcement officials in Memphis? This has been the contention of several writers who have advanced this thesis in print over the last twenty years.
There are three books worth mentioning which have set out to shed light upon the notion of a grand conspiracy involving the murder of Dr. King.
The first being "Code Name Zorro", by Mark Lane and Dick Gregory, which suggests that the federal government was behind the assassination thirty years ago. Another book is by Philip Melanson entitled, "The MURKIN Conspiracy". This work attempts to draw a link between the military intelligence apparatus in the U.S. and the killing of Dr. King. A Canadian connection to the assassination is drawn through the acquisition by James Earl Ray of false identities of residents of Toronto who bore a striking resemblance to himself. Ray was able to obtain a Canadian passport after he allegedly escaped from prison one year before the murder of Dr. King. The final publication that will be mentioned here is "Orders to Kill" by Attorney William F. Pepper, whose thesis attempts to place responsibility for the murder on military intelligence units operating under the orders of the Pentagon in Washington, D.C.
All of these books make for interesting reading and analysis despite the absence of key material and documents that would conclusively prove the theories behind each argument. Although government documents have been released under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), one can never be certain that the most essential and relevant ones have not been destroyed or are still being withheld. Another possibility is that the lack of trained investigators who could comb and probe the existing government documents and witnesses to glean new and more pertinent information related to a government conspiracy is preventing the revelation of a version of the murder that would be much more closer to the actual truth of what occured.
This lack of documentation and concrete analysis has resulted in questionable speculation and inferences by the above mentioned writers, with specific reference to the book by William F. Pepper (Orders To Kill). Perhaps the most objective of these accounts would be the work by Melanson- who is very cautious in his inferences and conclusions based upon his collection of what he perceives as relevant data on the murder case.
Nevertheless all of these books should be read in addition to the FBI files on the assassination which are available now on microfilm. Despite the redactions in the documents, one can see clearly that the government was more concerned about minimizing Dr. King's legacy and curtailing violent activity after his assassination than with getting to the culpable forces behind the conspiracy. Even the House Committee on Asssassination (HCOA) in the late 1970s concluded that there was a conspiracy in the death of Dr. King, although they refused to draw a viable link to the intelligence apparatus of the United States at the time.
In the next several months there will be increased interest and speculation about these issues. The convening of an independent commission of inquiry into the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. would place pressure on the federal government to release any additional documents that are relevant to the murder. These documents, in addition to the ones already available to the public could be reviewed and analyzed in order to frame new questions related to the assassination and to also provide new answers.
If Africans in America can raise this issue in the next several weeks, it would create the necessary dialogue that would lead to a much needed re-examination of the question of a conspiracy in the murder of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
Pan-African News Wire, April 4, 1998