Son of Dr. King Asserts L.B.J. Role in Plot

June 18, 2013

This dated article shows the Martin Luther King family members believed the conspiracy went all the way the White House, involving at least the cognizance of President Lyndon Johnson.

Son of Dr. King Asserts L.B.J. Role in Plot
Published: June 20, 1997

Three months ago, Dexter Scott King declared that he and his family believed that James Earl Ray was not guilty of the murder of his father, the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Tonight, in a televised interview, Mr. King asserted that President Lyndon B. Johnson must have been part of a military and governmental conspiracy to kill Dr. King.

”Based on the evidence that I’ve been shown, I would think that it would be very difficult for something of that magnitude to occur on his watch and he not be privy to it,” Mr. King said on the ABC News program ”Turning Point.”

Mr. King, who heads the Martin Luther King Jr. Center for Nonviolent Social Change in Atlanta, suggested that the Army and Federal intelligence agencies were involved in his father’s assassination, in Memphis on April 4, 1968.

”I am told that it was part and parcel Army intelligence, C.I.A., F.B.I.,” he said in the interview. ”I think we knew it all along.”

Mr. King’s older brother, Martin Luther King 3d, said in the television interview that Mr. Ray had ”basically nothing to do with this assassination.”

Mr. Ray, 69, is dying of liver disease in a state prison hospital in Nashville. He originally confessed to the killing and was sentenced to 99 years in prison. Several days later, he recanted, saying that his lawyers had encouraged him to plead guilty to avoid the death penalty.

A Congressional inquiry and studies by several historians have concluded that Mr. Ray was almost certainly involved in the killing, although others may have played a part in a conspiracy.

The notion of a conspiracy by the Army and intelligence agencies to kill Dr. King has long been expounded by William F. Pepper, Mr. Ray’s lawyer, who is seeking a trial for his client. In recent months, Mr. King, his three siblings, and their mother, Coretta Scott King, have apparently embraced Mr. Pepper’s theories.

In the broadcast, Forrest Sawyer of ABC undermined at least part of Mr. Pepper’s theory by introducing Mr. Pepper to Billy Eidson. Mr. Eidson is a retired Army officer whom Mr. Pepper has described as the leader of a unit that was ready to kill Dr. King if the assassin did not succeed.

Mr. Pepper has asserted that Mr. Eidson was himself later assassinated. After being presented with Mr. Eidson, Mr. Pepper said, ”I acknowledge that maybe I was provided with wrong information.”

In March, Dexter King traveled to Nashville to meet with Mr. Ray, and told him face to face that he and his family believed Mr. Ray’s declarations of innocence.

With the King family’s support, Mr. Pepper has won court approval for new ballistics tests on the rifle linked to Mr. Ray and the killing of Dr. King. Mr. Pepper hopes that new forensic methods will prove that the rifle did not fire the fatal shot. The tests have been completed, but a hearing has yet to be held on the results.

In the ABC program, Mrs. King and Andrew Young, formerly a top aide to Dr. King as well as a former chief delegate to the United Nations and Mayor of Atlanta, called on President Clinton to appoint a commission to investigate the killing again. Mrs. King proposed that anyone with information about the assassination be granted amnesty.

Neither Mr. Young nor any of the Kings could be reached for comment today.

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