Contents

Murdering Civil Rights

Martin Luther King, Jr., White Supremacy & Newly Revealed Facts Supporting the Guilt of James Earl Ray

by Charles Faulkner
Mar 2013


1967 race riots in Detroit
Detroit Free Press.

When thinking about Martin Luther King, Jr. and the civil rights era, it is easy to forget that America was a desperate place. Non-white (primarily black), people were treated as sub-humans and expected to accept it. Race hatred was prevalent. People on both sides of the relentless struggle had pledged themselves to prevail or die. Some did.

We rightfully remember names like Medgar Evers and Vernon Dahmer. Few will remember Kathy Ainsworth, an elementary school teacher from Jackson, Mississippi. She died for her cause, however mistaken it was. She, too, wanted to do God’s will.


Schoolteacher and
terrorist
Kathy Ainsworth.

Ainsworth was gunned down on June 28, 1968 in a hail of FBI bullets, a Bonnie and Clyde style ambush, as she attempted to bomb the home of Meyer Davidson, the head of the Anti-Defamation League in Meridian, Mississippi. [1] Ainsworth was the member of several white supremacist organizations, including the White Knights of the Ku Klux Klan (White Knights), Original Knights of the Ku Klux Klan and United Klans of America (UKA). [2] Members of the White Knights pledged an oath to die to preserve "Christian civilization." [3]

Ainsworth’s conspirator, Tommy Tarrants, also a member of the White Knights, survived nineteen wounds to renounce his life as a Klan member and become born again. Before his conversion, Tarrants, an early suspect in King’s murder, had participated in multiple drive-by shootings and bombings. [4] He and his comrades wanted more. Jack Nelson, the renowned civil rights journalist quoted him as saying, “That was my ambition, to shoot Dr. King. I hated Dr. King.” [5]

During this era, a bomb might explode any time at a home, motel, business or place of worship if connected to civil rights. Men, women and children were murdered. People were physically and psychologically maimed. Violent mobs and sanctioned police forces attacked people peacefully protesting for fair treatment under the law. Lawlessness by law and order was status quo.

When thinking about Martin Luther King, Jr., it is important to remember that this was the context within which he died. It is natural to want to place him into his future. A future that has him confronting broader social issues and the Vietnam War. America very much needed him to do that and he seemed prepared for that challenge. But it never happened.

The National Civil Rights Museum now resides at the site of King’s murder, the Lorraine Motel, in Memphis, Tennessee. The voices of children gathering to enter the building brighten the atmosphere. The museum aims “to inspire participation in civil and human rights efforts globally.” [6] Barbara Andrews is the Director of Education and Interpretation for the museum. When I asked her about King’s standing in America had he lived she said “I think our country would be united in ways we don’t see today. He would have been a voice of sanity and morality.” [7] Across the street is the rooming house from which the fatal shot was fired. It is part of the museum as well, standing as a reminder of the forces against this vision.

There is an impulse to follow the lead of the dissembling lifelong criminal, James Earl Ray, and place King’s assassination into a tale of international mystery, involving a shadowy figure named “Raoul”, that suggests King was the victim of powerful and sinister forces. It must have been the government that murdered him, so the thinking goes, underestimating the capacity of Ray and, perhaps, white supremacist conspirators. King cannot have been killed by hillbillies.

The government behaved suspiciously and sometimes wickedly with respect to King and civil rights, its vision likely clouded by racism and the cold war. This fuels rather wild speculation about who his murderers were. Most of the documents the government has on the assassination still are kept from the public.


The Awful Grace of God,
by Stuart Wexler and Larry Hancock.

In their 2012 book, The Awful Grace of God: Religious Terrorism, White Supremacy and the Unsolved Murder of Martin Luther King, Jr., Stuart Wexler and Larry Hancock are the first to treat the avowed enemies of civil rights as legitimate suspects. They document over ten known plots against King’s life, originating within the web of cells and organizations known collectively as “white supremacy.” The foundational ethos of these racists was a marginal interpretation of Christianity known as “Christian Identity”, which declares that Caucasians are God’s chosen people.

Wexler and Hancock are modest in their aims. They do not claim to know all the answers about who killed King. They do not proclaim that they have found Raoul or spoken to the assassins. They bring the discussion back toward the course of King’s life and the milieu of those who hated him. That is where the conspirators, if they exist, likely will be found.

New evidence will be presented here in print for the first time. This evidence does not provide conclusive answers but supports the case against Ray and white supremacists. There still is much to know about how King was killed. If Wexler and Hancock’s thesis of white supremacist culpability in King's murder is correct, there is much that can be learned about America by solving the crime.

I stress “new.” The evidence is not new. It was concealed for years in plain sight. Two pieces of the evidence exist in the files made available on the assassination at the Shelby County Register of Deeds website. Another is readily ascertained by anyone familiar with reports of the House Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC) and the House Select Committee on Assassinations (HSCA). Another piece required research but was within the capacities of a diligent investigator. The absence of this evidence from the literature to date on King’s assassination exposes a failure of purpose. The evidence was so easily found that it’s as if some of these writers didn’t want the public to know.


FIRST EVIDENCE: THE UKA AND JAMES EARL RAY AT THE SAME BANK

In February of 1966 HUAC called before it over one hundred individuals suspected of involvement with white supremacy. Most of the witnesses refused to answer the committee’s questions. This did not keep HUAC from writing a comprehensive 143-page history of the Klan as it existed at the time. [8]

The UKA was the largest and most powerful Klan organization in America in the 1960s. It was founded in Georgia from the merger of former members of the U.S. Klan and the Alabama Knights of the Ku Klux Klan. They were estimated to have over 15,000 members in 1967 and had klaverns (local Klan organizations) in 19 states though none further west than Texas. By this time the UKA was projecting itself as an organization for segregationist political activists and publicly distanced themselves from some of the more violent Klan entities like the White Knights and the National States Rights Party. [9] However, because of the nature of their beliefs (white supremacy), the political realities (civil rights progress) and the interpenetration of members into multiple Klan organizations, the UKA was recruiting some of the more fanatical and violent racists into their ranks.

Armed with bank records, HUAC read into the record various transactions made by the klaverns. One such bank, the Birmingham Trust National Bank in Birmingham, Alabama, was the bank for the UKA. [10]


Missouri Dept. of Corrections
mugshot of James Earl Ray.

On August 28, 1967, the Birmingham Trust National Bank also was the bank at which James Earl Ray opened a safe deposit box. [11] He had escaped from the Missouri State Penitentiary in April of the same year. Though he traveled around the country and into Canada and Mexico, this was the one and only bank at which Ray ever risked opening a safe deposit box while on the lam.

Indeed, it is the only safe deposit box he ever opened in his life. That he not only opened it in a city in which he had never been but also at a time at which he purchased a pistol and made the largest purchase of his life, the $1,995.00 white mustang (his getaway car from Memphis), should have caused alarm to investigators looking for a Klan link.

Yet, the FBI appears not to have looked into the glaring coincidence of the Klan and Ray using the same bank. Congress, which first informed the public of the relationship between the UKA and the bank in 1966 (HUAC) overlooked this fact during its HSCA investigation. Nowhere in the HSCA report does it reveal any recognition of the bank connection, despite the committee’s having Ray’s safe deposit box records and the HSCA’s lengthy consideration of “rightwing, segregationist, extremist groups” in King’s murder. The HSCA blithely concluded that “no private organizations or individuals [meaning the Klan] were involved in the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.” [12] Rather than subpoena the UKA’s bank records to determine if its transactions related to Ray’s purchases, the HSCA chose instead to speculate that Ray was bankrolled from the proceeds of an unsolved bank robbery in Alton, Illinois (Ray’s home town) for which there is no material or eye witness evidence linking Ray.


SECOND EVIDENCE: RAY BUYS A WEAPON AND PLACES A MARKER

When Ray returned to Birmingham on March 29, 1968, he bought the presumed murder weapon found in Memphis on April 4th. That Ray bought this weapon is not in question. He admits buying it but at the direction of Raoul. [13] Ray originally purchased a .243 caliber rifle on which he had a scope mounted. He called the seller, Aeromarine Co., the same day and exchanged the weapon the following day for a Remington 760, a 30.06 with Redfield 7x variable scope. He told them his brother (or brother-in-law) said it was the wrong weapon and he wanted to exchange it. When the salesman told him that a .243 would kill any game in the area, Ray said he was going hunting in Wisconsin. [14]


Receipt for rifle sale by Aeromarine Co., sold to Ray using name Harvey Lowmeyer.

Although Ray still was using the alias, Eric S. Galt, during his time in Birmingham, he chose the nom de guerre Harvey Lowmeyer when buying the weapon. A great deal of attention was paid to this alias by the FBI, Congress, historians and other authors on the assassination. In some of these accounts readers are reminded that aliases are often chosen that are personally familiar to a criminal. It’s easier to remember a name (or information) one knows well or which has a personal memory anchor. In this instance Ray was aware of the real Harvey Lohmeyer (the correct spelling) though he had never met him. Ray learned of the name from one or both of his brothers as they had both served with Lohmeyer in prison. [15] This connection contributed to the suspicion brought upon Ray’s brothers, John and Jerry, as potential co-conspirators in King’s murder. [16] This suspicion still haunts them today.

Yet, it is the false address Ray gave, which was written on the sales invoice that is most interesting. The address is 1907 South 11th Street in Birmingham, Alabama. The FBI, soon after the murder, interviewed the presumed owner, an attorney, and asked him about the home’s occupants. The attorney’s mother lived there alone and had for several years since his father’s death. She was in the hospital at that time. The attorney lived with his wife and children at another address in a suburb of Birmingham. [17]


Closeup of address on rifle receipt.

FBI Special Agent Henry A. Snow took the report. On April 13, 1968 Snow wrote, “Attorney Jenkins has been an acquaintance of many years, is considered reliable and is a former Judge of the Jefferson County Court, Civil Division.” Nothing else of significance about the judge is mentioned in Snow’s report. Other than interviewing the former judge’s mother and wife to see if they knew Harvey Lowmeyer (they did not), his investigation into this coincidence seems to have ended. [18]


Excerpt from Snow's report regarding Judge Jenkins.

But William Arthur Jenkins, Jr., the attorney mentioned, wasn’t just any former judge of Jefferson County. He was the very judge who signed the injunction prohibiting King from marching in Birmingham in 1963 and who ordered King’s arrest and jailing (among others) when King violated the injunction. It was this 8-day stint in jail that provided King the opportunity for writing, Letter from a Birmingham Jail.

Ray’s choice of the judge’s address is damning. Ray had at his disposal thousands of other addresses. By so doing Ray linked his purchase of the murder weapon to the victim. To accidentally have selected an address connected with the judge most associated with King and civil rights in Birmingham would have been a colossal stroke of bad luck. Because he was alone at the time of the purchase of the weapon and due to the absence of evidence that would lay the choice upon someone else, the selection of the address must be his. Neither Ray nor anyone ever associated with his defense team ever acknowledged Ray’s choice of address. No one but the FBI has identified its owner.

A rationale for Ray picking the address is hard to determine. If the address had been checked before yielding the weapon to Ray, there would have been an obvious problem for him and perhaps Jenkins. Yet, there may have been some motivation to use it as well. Perhaps Ray was trying to throw police off his trail, even taunt them, by implicating an irreproachable man tied to King who would eventually be found innocent. Perhaps Ray was leaving a deliberate clue in order to reference the reason for King’s assassination or collect a bounty. Perhaps Ray was using the address of a collaborator, someone that could vouch for the purchaser of the weapon but deny his own role if things fell apart. There is nothing in the available record to indicate that these motives were ever considered. The judge escaped closer scrutiny because he was a reliable acquaintance of many years.

Given the thoroughness of FBI procedure and training of its agents and the experience of Special Agent Snow, in particular, it cannot be accepted as credible that the FBI failed to grasp the importance of discovering the earliest, and only, fact (prior to the murder itself) that linked the suspect, the murder weapon and the victim. Yet, the FBI has never publicly acknowledged that it ever knew the significance of the address. Moreover, Congress seems to have been unaware of the fact during its investigation into the assassination. It never mentioned Ray’s referencing of the judge in its HSCA report. Was it withheld from them or did they overlook it?

We are left to speculate. Perhaps it was to avoid investigating a possible conspiracy that could embarrass a judge or other government officials and create public mistrust. Perhaps it threatened to expose valuable FBI assets in the white supremacist underworld. Unfortunately, for the Bureau and congressional investigators, interpreting this apparently intentional laxity, without suspicion, is complicated by the FBI and Hoover’s earlier attempts to harass, even destroy, King.

While it seems inevitable that there always will be those who attribute the choice of the judge’s address to Raoul, or some other murky character, it must be remembered that neither Ray nor anyone in his defense team ever did. We may dismiss the idea that he was protecting Raoul while he spent the same thirty years of his life trying to implicate him. It is possible that Ray was protecting someone else but that would place Ray within a much different kind of conspiracy, a conspiracy of people with whom he was likely to be connected. There is one thing of which we can be reasonably certain. If Ray was protecting white supremacists, the FBI was never going to find a guy named “Raoul.”


THIRD EVIDENCE: WHO ARE WILLIAM ARTHUR JENKINS, JR. AND THE FRATERNAL ORDER OF EAGLES?

Diane McWhorter described Jenkins, in her Pulitzer Prize-winning book about Birmingham and the civil rights movement, Carry Me Home: Birmingham, Alabama: The Climactic Battle of the Civil Rights Revolution. “A former criminal lawyer who hadn’t had the stomach for jailhouse conferences with clients, forty-three-year-old Jenkins was a civil rights virgin; he disagreed with Brown on the ground of stare decisis [the legal principle of precedent], and his understanding of the Montgomery bus boycott consisted of ‘some woman got out of the back of the bus and moved to the front.’ It was Jenkins’s reputation for granting employers temporary injunctions against striking workers that had singled him out for the honor of this visit [to sign the injunction against King marching].” [19]

This rather demure portrayal of Jenkins doesn’t quite tell everything there was to know about him. Like his father before him William Arthur Jenkins, Jr. was a Southern Democrat. The son of a judge and district attorney, he came from a distinguished southern family. His father was a Mason (Blue Lodge, A.F. and A.M.), an Elk and Knight of Pythias. His grandfathers, on both sides, served as officers in the confederate army during the civil war. His mother’s father, Major Solomon Palmer, served as Alabama’s State Superintendent of Education. [20] He spent his whole life in Birmingham, attending segregated schools, including two private segregated colleges and a segregated law school. [21] His upbringing was privileged and prepared him for public life. Its background was Jim Crow.

One may say that given the history of the United States and the south, in particular, the distinguishing features of Jenkins’ biography are only natural. After all, it’s not as if a man’s environment, growing up amidst segregation, stands as prima facie evidence of his own bigotry and racist outlook. Individuals can transcend their environment. They can recognize injustice and act righteously. They have freedom of choice.

If there is nothing about a Southern Democrat who was against Brown and ruled against civil rights demonstrators marching for equality that makes him a racist, there is one affiliation of Jenkins’ that should have been of interest. William Arthur Jenkins, Jr. also belonged to the exclusive Fraternal Order of the Eagles. [22]

The Fraternal Order of the Eagles (FOE) is a prominent social club. Like other such orders, it is involved in performing good works. [23] It also happened to be for whites only.


Except from Jenkins entry in 1959 Alabama Official and Statistical Register.

Father James Groppi, who joined Martin Luther King on the March on Washington in 1963 and again on the march from Selma to Montgomery in 1965, gained national attention with the Milwaukee NAACP Youth Council in 1966 by picketing the homes of judges who were FOE members. [24] The protestors believed that impartial rulings would not come from men who accepted segregation in their social lives. They increasingly became concerned that the exclusion practiced at the Eagles’ Club was carrying over into school board decisions and court rulings on student integration matters. Judge Michael Sullivan was the only judge to resign his Eagles Club membership. [25]

Groppi held local public addresses and debates on the problems of the black neighborhoods and the morality of protesting public officials. Nevertheless, white reaction to the protests was angry and violent. White supremacists flocked to Milwaukee. Buildings associated with the movement were bombed. The National Guard had to be called to protect the protestors. Events began to so resemble the south that Milwaukee came to be known as the “Selma of the North.”

One may here consider the meaning of James Earl Ray’s statement when he bought the murder weapon that he and his brother were going hunting in Wisconsin. There is no indication that he had ever been there, hunting or otherwise, before. Was it merely a coincidence or was Wisconsin on Ray’s mind?


FOURTH EVIDENCE: RAY GOES CLUBBING

What makes these events and Jenkins’ membership in FOE strangely relevant to Ray’s use of the judge’s address is that James Earl Ray may have been an Eagles Club member. Contained in the portion of the publically available file of Ray’s 2nd defense attorney, Percy Foreman, there is a copy of an undated handwritten note from Ray entitled, “Points that can be us[ed] against me.” On the second page of this document, the last point states, “The only org. I have ever belong to [sic] was the eagles.” It is an enigmatic statement as it’s the only item of the otherwise deceptive and self-serving five-point list that isn’t also explained away by Ray. In another hand, double underlined, is written the question, “where?” That query remains unanswered. [26]


Last entry in Ray's list of "points that can be us[ed] against me".

Ray’s introduction of this adverse fact is peculiar. First, there is no indication in the available record that investigators or prosecutors were aware of such a membership. It is hard to determine when he ever would have the time or resources to become one. Second, there is no evidence that he ever had known anyone in FOE. Third, even if it was known that he was a member, belonging to a fraternal organization that accomplishes good works, certainly, couldn’t harm his case. Or is it possible that belonging to a seemingly benign white fraternal order opened doors for Ray to a broader racist underworld? Could this have been the means by which Ray connected to plots to murder the most revered leader of the civil rights movement in America?


“WHITE AMERICA KILLED DR. KING LAST NIGHT”

The words of the late Kwame Ture, previously known as Stoakley Charmichael, still jar today. White Americans would do well to consider its truth. A reading of our history shows that white supremacy touched upon every aspect of American life and permeated all of its institutions.

Obviously, I believe there are enough loose ends to say that the FBI and HSCA did not satisfactorily answer the question about white supremacy’s involvement in the murder of King. However, I am not saying that there is sufficient evidence to conclude, categorically, that the Klan was involved in King’s murder. That’s what investigations are for. Because America’s institutions failed in this regard, it is left to historians and private citizens to tell the tale correctly.

This also is why the unreleased documents are so important. The government is withholding a key to who we are. Stuart Wexler believes three things would go a long way to complete the story of the murder of civil rights in America.

1. Reopen the King Assassination in the Justice Department as a civil rights cold case.
2. Re-run the dozens of fingerprints that had no match previously through IAFIS (Integrated Automated Fingerprint Identification System) now that it is a more robust and expansive system. This digital computer system has solved fifty-year-old crimes using a database of millions of suspect criminal’s fingerprints.
3. Release all of the non-controversial records on the government’s investigation of King’s murder.

This seems a sensible plan, as there are clear precedents in other criminal cases, some even older than King's murder. It is especially so if Wexler is correct that the last two items are relatively low cost. [27]

We owe it to our history and to King's memory. If you agree, please let your congressperson know.


-- Charles Faulkner lives and works in San Francisco.


NOTES

[1] Wexler, Stuart and Hancock, Larry The Awful Grace of God pp. 93-94

[2] Nelson, Jack "Pretty Teachers Life as a Terrorist Revealed", The Spoksman-Review, July 7, 1968 http://news.google.com/newspapers?nid=1314&dat=19680707&id=A75YAAAAIBAJ&sjid=Z-kDAAAAIBAJ&pg=7432,2171441

[3] HUAC The Present-Day Ku Klux Klan Movement p. 45-47

[4] Wexler, Stuart and Hancock, Larry The Awful Grace of God pp. 100-108

[5] Nelson, Jack Terror in the Night p. 140

[6] National Civil Rights Website (Mission Statement) http://www.civilrightsmuseum.org/?page_id=92

[7] Interview with Author 11/28/12

[8] HUAC The Present-Day Ku Klux Klan Movement See http://archive.org/stream/ThePresent-dayKuKluxKlanMovementReportNinetiethCongressFirst/HUAC1_djvu.txt

[9] HUAC The Present-Day Ku Klux Klan Movement pp. 21-43. See http://archive.org/stream/ThePresent-dayKuKluxKlanMovementReportNinetiethCongressFirst/HUAC1_djvu.txt

[10] http://www.archive.org/stream/activitiesofkukl04unit/activitiesofkukl04unit_djvu.txt

[11] FBI Report Special Agent Snow; 4/17/68; Birmingham, pages 1 through 184 (http://register.shelby.tn.us/media/mlk/index.php?album=FBI+Investigative+Report)

[12] Report of the Select Committee on Assassinations of the U.S. House of Representatives

[13] Ray, James Earl Who Killed Martin Luther King Jr.?, pp. 91-92

[14] FBI Report Special Agent Snow

[15] Ray, James Earl Who Killed Martin Luther King Jr.?, pp. 91-92

[16] Report of the Select Committee on Assassinations of the U.S. House of Representatives p. 356

[17] FBI Report Special Agent Snow

[18] FBI Report Special Agent Snow

[19] McWhorter, Diane Carry Me Home, p. 341

[20] Citizens Historical Association 12/19/36

[21] Alabama Official and Statistical Register 1959 (Judicial Department)

[22] Alabama Official and Statistical Register 1959 (Judicial Department)

[23] FOE Website http://www.foe.com/about-us/facts.aspx

[24] http://www4.uwm.edu/libraries/digilib/march/records/key-terms.cfm

[25] Nearman, Holly “This Week in History: Fighting for equality in Milwaukee” TCD Third Coast Digest February 24, 2012

[26] Shelby County Register of Deeds Attorney General File “Paper from Forman”, p. 83 http://register.shelby.tn.us/media/mlk/mlkviewimage.php?imgtype=pdf&image=ray_material_2011-02-08/attorney_general_file/microfilm_images/000505ag10.tif#

[27] Interview with Author 11/29/12

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