People who believe in conspiracy theories are kooks and crazies! Aren’t they? If that’s the case, add to the list of crazies: The King Family, Ralph Abernathy and other Civil Rights leaders of the 60s, and Atty. William Pepper.

Pepper is the author of three books on the conspiracy to kill Martin Luther King, Jr. In 1999, he represented the King family in a wrongful death lawsuit, "King family vs. Loyd Jowers and other unknown co-conspirators.” Pepper spent more than four decades compiling the facts he presented in the case.

During a trial that lasted four weeks, Pepper produced over 70 witnesses. Jowers, testifying by deposition, stated that James Earl Ray was a scapegoat and not involved in the assassination and he identified a Memphis police officer as the assassin.

On Dec. 8, 1999, the Memphis jury took less than an hour to find in favor of the King family for the requested sum of $100. In addition to finding Jowers responsible, they also found the assassination plot included "governmental agencies."

Amazingly, neither this ruling nor Pepper’s research has garnered much attention from the mainstream media, which continue to feed us the official line that King was the victim of James Earl Ray, a bitter racist acting on his own to kill King.

Here’s a simple summary of Pepper’s stunning conclusions.

King was murdered in a conspiracy instigated by FBI director J. Edgar Hoover that also involved the U.S. military, the Memphis Police, and Dixie Mafia crime figures in Memphis, TN, with the shot being fired by a Memphis policeman from the nearby firehouse tower. Pepper strongly believes Ray took the fall for a murder he did not commit.

The Assassination Scene

At approximately 5:51 p.m. on April 4, 1968, Rev. Samuel “Billy” Kyles knocked on the door of room 306 of the Lorraine Motel to let King and the rest of his party know they were running late for a planned dinner at Kyles’ home. Just about a minute after King exited his room, a single shot was fired and the bullet ripped through King’s jaw and spinal cord, dropping him immediately. The shot appeared to come from across Mulberry St. King was rushed to the hospital, where he was pronounced dead just after 7 p.m.

According to the official story, the shot was fired by Ray from the bathroom of a rooming house above a bar called Jim’s Grill, which backed on to Mulberry.

Setting the Scene

Members of the militant Black organizing group the Invaders, who were also staying in the motel because of King’s visit, were told shortly before the shooting by a member of the motel staff that their rooms would no longer be paid for by the Southern Christian Leadership Conference and that they had to leave immediately. When they asked who had given this order, they were told it was Jesse Jackson.

Jackson is also identified as the person who called the owners of the Lorraine Motel and demanded that King be moved from a more secure inner courtyard room to an exposed room on the second floor facing the street.

The Memphis Police Department usually formed a detail of Black officers to protest King when he was in town, but did not this time. Emergency TACT support units were pulled back from the Lorraine to the fire station, which overlooked the motel. Pepper also learned that the only two Black members of the Memphis Fire Department had been told the day before the shooting not to report for work the next day at the fire station. Black detective Ed Redditt was told an hour before the shooting to stay home because a threat had been made on his life.

Ray the Patsy

One thing that many people don’t know is that Ray was in prison in 1967, serving a 20-year sentence for a grocery store robbery in 1959. After a couple of unsuccessful escape attempts, Ray succeeded in breaking out of prison on April 23, 1967. According to Pepper, Ray’s escape was orchestrated, because he had already been chosen as the patsy in the planned assassination of King.

The warden of Missouri State Penitentiary was paid $25,000 by Russell Adkins, Sr., a member of the Dixie Mafia, to allow Ray to escape. The money was delivered to Adkins by Clyde Tolson, J. Edgar Hoover’s right hand man.

Ray escaped to Canada, but was convinced to come back to the United State by the mysterious Raul, whom he met in a bar in Canada. Raul convinced Ray he would help him get papers to go overseas, if Ray just helped him with running some guns.

Ray, following instructions of Raul arrived in Memphis on April 3, 1968. They met at Jim’s Grill, where Ray rented a room, and he handed a deer rifle with a scope, that Raul had told him to buy, over to Raul.

On the day of the shooting, about an hour before the shooting, Ray was given money to go to a movie. When Ray heard the sirens that followed the shooting, he got scared and left the area. He feared he had been set up.

Conspirator Russell Adkins, Sr.

A local Dixie Mafia gangster was a conspirator in the planning of the assassination, although he died before it took place. Much of what Pepper found out about Adkins’ involvement came from his son Ron Adkins. In his deposition, contained in Pepper’s 2017 book “The Plot to Kill King,” Adkins described the many visits made to his father by Asst. FBI Director Clyde Tolson. Known to Ron as Uncle Clyde, the high-level FBI official often delivered cash to the elder Adkins for tasks he and his associates would carry out on behalf of Hoover. He also recalls driving with his father to the Missouri prison to deliver $25,000 to the warden.

Jim’s Grill owner: Jowers

Jowers would eventually admit to being a part of the conspiracy to kill King. Getty Spate, a waitress at Jim’s Grill and girlfriend of Jowers, says she saw him rush into the back of the grill through the back door seconds after the shot, white as a ghost and holding a rifle, which he then wrapped in a tablecloth and hid on a shelf under the counter. Spate didn’t come forward with this information until the 1990s. She also recounted that Jowers had been delivered a large sum of money right before the assassination.

Raul

Purveyors of the official story of the assassination have always claimed that Raul was an invention of Ray’s. Pepper found Raul and learned his last name was Coelho, from a witness Glenda Brabow who also identified Jack Ruby as someone she had seen with Raul in 1963.

King Was Still Alive

In one of the shocking bits of information revealed in his 2017 book, Pepper says King actually survived the shot and was still alive when he arrived at St. Joseph’s Hospital and that he was killed by a doctor.

The hospital story was told to Pepper by a man names Johnton Shelby, whose mother, Lula Mae Shelby, had been a surgical aide at St. Joseph’s that night. Shelby told Pepper the story of how his mother came home the morning after the shooting and shared this story with the family:

She described Chief of surgery Dr. Breen Bland entering the emergency room with two men in suits. Seeing doctors working on King, Bland commanded, “Stop working on the [N-word] and let him die! Now all of you get out of here, right now. Everybody get out.” 

Johnton Shelby says his mother described hearing the sound of the three men sucking up saliva into their mouths and then spitting. Lula Mae said she looked back over her shoulder as she was leaving the room and saw that the breathing tube had been removed from King and that Bland was holding a pillow over his head.

Ron Adkins helped confirm this story. Ron, who was 16 at the time of the murder, remembered hearing Breen Bland say to his father, “If he’s not killed by the shot, just make sure he gets to St. Joseph Hospital, and we’ll make sure he doesn’t leave.”

Who Fired the Shot

Another shocking reveal in “The Plot to Kill King” is a 2003 deposition from Lenny B. Curtis, who was a custodian at the Memphis Police Department rifle range. Only after his death in 2013 did Pepper reveal what he shared.

Curtis identified the shooter as police officer Frank Strausser. Curtis said to Pepper, he heard Strausser say four or five months before the assassination that “somebody was going to…. blow his mother f-ing brains out.” He also described that Strausser had practiced in the rifle range with a particular rifle that had been brought in four or five days earlier by a member of the fire department. On the day of the assassination, Strausser spent the whole day practicing with it.

Why Pepper Got involved

Peppers said like most people, he believed the official story and only went to speak with Ray at the encouragement of Ralph Abernathy, who remained unsatisfied with the official account of the shooting

This was a full ten years after King’s murder. He said that after a five hour interview, he and everyone in the room were convinced Lee didn’t murder King. After that, he began digging further.

Yes, Ray did plead guilty to the murder, something he quickly recanted. He stuck by his innocence even when asked on his death bed by Martin Luther King III.

King Family Finds Closure

Are we talking crooks and crazies here? Believe what you like, but “the King family is happy that they have closure,” said Pepper.

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