Memphis Miasma

Copyright © 1998 by Joseph Backes


The Dr. King assassination case has been getting much publicity lately. I have been cataloging many news stories myself. (See www.jfklancer.com/MLK.html.) Unfortunately, the case itself seems to have been assassinated with the removal of Judge Joseph Brown from the case by the Tennessee State Criminal Court Of Appeals, just as he had finally ruled on granting another round of test firings. Then there is the re-emergence of Gerald Posner and a new book by him, ABC news re-airing a hatch et job they did with Forrest Sawyer on Dr. Pepper --- first on their "Turning Point" program, this time on their "ABC Saturday Night" program --- and Dan Rather virtually surrendering his program to Posner.

And so it was in this all-out-attack atmosphere on the progress made in the case by Dr. Pepper, and James Earl Ray's worsening health, that the Coalition on Political Assassinations (COPA) held a "regional meeting" in Memphis.

To my great surprise and delight the King family did not just take this. They have elevated this case, this cry for truth and justice to a higher level. It was while driving down that I learned that Coretta Scott King, Dr. King's widow called upon President Clinton to establish a "truth commission" modeled on the South African investigation of Apartheid crimes.

The King family stayed in Atlanta and to my knowledge no representative of the family really spoke for them at all in Memphis.


The Lorraine Hotel

I arrived in Memphis early in the afternoon on Friday, and after checking into my hotel began to walk toward the Lorraine Hotel, now The National Civil Rights Museum. It reminded me of Dealey Plaza in many ways. First of all, the ground slopes downward towards the Lorraine. The rear of what was Bessie Brewer's boarding house is elevated, it is not level to Mulberry Street. There are several buildings that look down upon the Lorraine from the street that Bessie Brewer's boarding house was on, Main St. There is a water tower nearby, and another building nearby that is uniquely, several stories tall.


Former boarding house and Jim's Grill on Main St.

There are currently plans to expand the museum which entails buying the property that was Bessie Brewer's boarding house, and perhaps also other buildings adjacent to it, which would include where Jim's Grill was, and Canipe's Amusement Company. I believe part of these plans include tearing down a wall, which wall, I'm not sure, perhaps the brick wall that surrounds the Lorraine.

I was stunned at how close the fire station, still apparently active, is to the Lorraine. I was also disappointed that I could not see the alleged sniper's window as a mixture of wild growth, trees, and bushes, blocked the view. I wondered if that is how it really did look at the time.

I did like the museum. There are many exhibits that are not exclusive to Dr. King and tell of the Civil Rights struggle. One that I really loved was a recreation of the scene that is credited with starting the whole Civil Rights movement, Rosa Parks and that bus ride. They have an actual bus of that era with a statue of a bus driver and one of Rosa Parks. This exhibit is interactive and welcomes you to climb aboard the bus. There are placards where on a bus of today there are small adverts, that tell the story of Rosa Parks and this bus ride. You are then invited to sit down in the first half of the bus, this activates a series of audio clips. You are asked to give up your seat, and like Mrs. Parks you sit there, it goes through a series of ever intimidating utterances that ends in a hate filled snarl, with that Southern accent, "GET UP FROM THERE!!". I was alone when I got to this exhibit and you do indeed feel a sense of fear, isolation, and oppression.

It is important to realize that she could have been killed for her perceived insolence back then. Others where for a lot less. And not a damn thing would be done about it.

Later, in the gift shop I read a small book that details the museum and the exhibits. It describes how school children often vandalize the statue of the bus driver. I nearly laughed out loud, 'cause you really do want to give him such a smack.


Wreath outside room 306, April 3, 1998

One of the very last exhibits takes you up to the second floor and you look out a window and see the exact spot where Dr. King fell. To your left and right you see the interior of rooms as they would have looked like back then. One room is given the appearance of a meeting room, as there are dirty cigarette trays and coffee cups around.

If you have several hours to devote to it, it's well worth a visit. Like the 6th floor museum they don't allow cameras inside. However, there are no scanners you and your belongings are forced to go through.

There were of course several TV camera crews and their vans with satellite hookups. As I finished going through the museum, admittedly quicker than I should, as I suspected someone would be there to say something to these TV journalists, sure enough, there's Rev. Jesse Jackson. I caught a few remarks from him on audio.

"...and so it is true that they killed the dreamer, but they did not kill the dream. And dreamers keep coming. Dream busters keep threatening, and dream busters keep shooting but the dreamers keep dreaming, and dreamers keep coming."

A reporter commented on the activities commemorating the anniversary.

"Well, there is pain, but we must turn our pain into power, that becomes our spiritual resilience. Turn pain into power. Turn negatives into positives. The will to struggle, the will to heal the breach."


The Reverend Jesse Jackson

There was terrific wind which obliterated some of the remarks. A storm was visibly brewing.

A reporter asked if it was eerie seeing this site and how so much of it has not changed.

"It is. It was such an innocent day. We had been in the room all day long. We had listened to him. He had been reminiscing and talking about his family life, how his father met his mother ... he really walked through his personal family history that day. And we were on our way to Rev. Billy Kyles home for dinner. And Rev. Billy Kyles was where room 303 was I suppose. I was here talking. I was on the ground and he was right near 306, and the bullet hit him and knocked him against that wall and there he lay. He really was killed instantly. And when I got up there Dr. Abernathy was coming out of the room. And I went and called Mrs. King on the phone and said to her, 'Come quickly, he has been shot.' I did not have the courage to say I think he's dead. I just said I think it would be best for you to come as quick as you can. Because by that time her phone was ringing and she had gotten the news, and she did come quickly. But it was so traumatic, and it was such a swift, sudden transition.

"The conspiracy forces did not have to kill him. Dr. King helped to transform the whole South, not just for Blacks, until the Cotton Curtain came down you could not have had the Olympics behind the Cotton Curtain, you could not have had the Atlanta Braves or the Dallas Cowboys, or the Florida Marlins, or Disney World behind the Cotton Curtain, you could not have had this new international investment behind the Cotton Curtain. In many ways Dr. King tore down the Cotton Curtain and built a bridge to unite Mason and Dixon. But, it didn't stop with healing America, the freedom movement in Tienamen Square, they sang 'We Shall Overcome', in South Africa they sang, 'We Shall Overcome', in many ways he was a transforming agent who had a tremendous impact for the good of the whole world."

He repeated himself, on Ray so often it was like a mantra.

"He bought two rifles, he was in Memphis, with an alias he got out of the country, so we know he was involved. But, more than James Earl Ray was involved, our government played a major role in character assassination, seeking to discredit him, seeking to undermine him. So we do not know how far up it went but we really will be restless until we find out. In the meantime, while we pursue knowledge of the forces that killed him we must maintain our commitment to fight for what he fought for, which is, a job, an income for every American, an education for all of our children, racial reconciliation, and non-violence.

"...we will be restless until we find out who killed Dr. King, who all killed Dr. King.

"I'm convinced James Earl Ray was involved because the very thorough Committee chaired by Congressman Louis Stokes and Walter Fauntroy, we know James Earl Ray stalked Dr. King, we know he bought two rifles, was in Memphis, used an alias to get out of the country. We do not know the other forces. James Earl Ray did not have the money, motive nor mobility to have done this by himself, so we will all be restless...

"...that James Earl Ray did stalk Dr. King, we know he bought two rifles, we know he was in Memphis, we know he used an alias to get out of the country, so there were other forces involved. We do not know just how deep this thing goes into out government, that is a haunting concern."

Rev. Jackson was now wired to a CNN camera crew and was doing a number of spots, sound bites, for various TV feeds. I was naturally only getting one side of the conversation.

"Well, it may not be limited to J. Edgar Hoover because the character assassination involved more...(sound of the wind and the buzz from the TV camera equipment obliterates some of what Rev. Jackson is saying)...to discredit him, to destroy his reputation, the government was actively involved.....the government created the climate for his assassination."

"I think there is a restlessness about it just as Merle Evers pursued the killer of Medgar Evers for 25 years, Mrs. King still pursues ... and that's important. On the other hand while we feel the pain of the loss, the loss is an obligation to keep the struggle going...fighting for jobs and an income for every American...fighting to educate our youth. In every city I have visited we seem to be targeting our youth, whether it is targeting them for sex, for tobacco, for drugs, somehow there is something morally degenerative about how we are treating America's children. I think it is time for us to rally to build the hope on our youth."

"Well, you know while there's tension between the races, the vertical gap between the haves and the have nots....look at the trip President Clinton just took to South Africa, the idea of the U.S. and Africa building a partnership, from slave ship to partnership, mutually respectful, mutually beneficial relationship, he would be proud of that. The freeing of Nelson Mandela, he would be proud of that..."

"I'm convinced that James Earl Ray was involved but not alone. I don't think James Earl Ray had the money, the mobility, nor the mobility to have done it himself. We do know through the Louis Stokes-Walter Fauntroy investigation in the Congress, a three year investigation James Earl Ray did stalk Dr. King, he did buy two rifles, he was in Memphis, he did receive an alias and got out of the country to London. But, having said that he did not do all that by himself. We have always wondered why he was denied a trial, number one, just how deep did this conspiracy to kill Dr. King go in our government, that is the haunting thought."

"Well we know the government engaged in character assassination with the attempts to discredit him, to disrupt him, to destroy him....they tried to destroy his family. Our government leadership was obsessed with Martin King, saw him as a threat to our government when in fact he was therapy for our country. In some sense a success, the Dr. Martin Luther King King movement has transformed America for the better. He helped pull the Cotton Curtain down...you have a broader base of prosperity in the south. When the south and north connect you get Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton out of the south to become presidents. And his movement inspired movements in China, in South Africa, around the world...so this world class moral leader deserved to live. We deserve to know the forces that worked to kill him."

"The point is that under Thomas Jefferson's definition of democracy, basically it was a democracy that did not even include the Bill of Rights, had not the Bill of Rights modified Jefferson's ideas, then that Jefferson idea would have been overthrown. Dr. King's democracy was truly a government of, for, and by the people, that did not exclude race, did not exclude class. It was a government of, for, and by, the people. Dr. King held a broad definition of democracy so as to make it an inclusive democracy. We have the most inclusive democracy since 1965, since Martin Luther King, not since Jefferson. Jefferson tried to have democracy co-exist with slavery, that is an irrational and..."

"A, I think he would applaud this mission to Africa, the idea of the U.S. and Africa forming a mutual and beneficial trade relationship. In Africa to go from slave ship to partnership, when an American President goes to Africa, to go to six countries to illuminate the ... in our relationship is a good thing. The idea that we import more oil from Africa than the Middle East, or that we export more product to Africa than the former Soviet Union, that Africa is a real partner in the process, that is a good sign for the future, he would applaud that. On the other hand, in our cities, by and large, we have first class jails and second class schools. In every city I visit I see two new buildings, a new ball park and a new jail. He would cry out against choosing entertainment and jails over the education of our youth. And I think it is our obligation to reclaim our youth. Look at what happened in Jonesborro, Arkansas and Petucka, Kentucky. Why are these kids killing each other? Because we are programing our kids for guns, for sex, for drugs, for cigarettes. These assaults upon the minds of our youth must stop. He would be a source of conscience, saying 'Let's save our children, not reduce them to market options.'"

I loved that, that was very well said.

"...that killed him. We cannot just wallow in that. We must also protect his dream. One bullet cannot kill the dream just because it killed the dreamer. So right now one out of every five children in America is born in poverty, for all of our wealth. One half of all black and brown youth is born in poverty, in all of our cities, Baltimore and Philadelphia, in every city two new buildings, a new ball park and a new jail. We must make a commitment to reclaim our youth. That was a big part of Dr. King's dream. And that part of the dream lives on."

"...and it was just a kind of day of remembrances, and then we were on our way to home, the home of Rev. Billy Kyles for dinner, and Ben Branch was with me, a saxophonist, and he said to Ben make sure to play my favorite song for me tonight, 'Precious Lord', Ben said I will. He raised up, I said, 'Doc', he said 'Yeah' and as he said 'Yeah' the bullet hit him right here, knocked him against the wall and of course he was virtually dead instantly. He died so young. He offered so much. America needed what Martin Luther King had to offer. We are a better world because Martin King lived and was willing to die for the highest investment of our principles."

"Well, I know James Earl Ray was involved but not alone. I don't think he had the money, the motive, nor the mobility to have done it by himself. We know James Earl Ray stalked Dr. King. We know he bought two rifles. We know he was in Memphis. We know he was in London with an alias. So he was in motion. He was operating with somebody. We will be restless until we know just who all was involved, just how deep does this go in our government? We do not know. But I tell you the government question remains a haunting question."

During these TV spots several groups of school children walked by and were kept a respectful short distance away and told to be still and quiet which they did as they saw who it was. Finally, Rev. Jackson finished with the CNN camera crew and turned to talk with the school children. He asked where they were from and interacted with them for awhile, leading them in his "Keep Hope Alive" cheer, which they loved. It was a real nice moment. I only wish I could have caught it on tape too.

Then he had to leave to do more TV interview spots. I took a few more pictures as he walked up the out staircase to the balcony where Dr. King was shot. By this time the lower parking lot area was just jammed watching and listening.

There were several events going on in and around Memphis that night. This served to divide the citizenry from appearing in any one place en mass. This combined with the near total lack of any advertising of the COPA events at the Comfort Inn and at the Centenary Untied Methodist Church resulted in a rather small crowd at the church.

I didn't get his name but one man spoke before introducing Rev. James Lawson. He led us in a short prayer.

Then Rev. Lawson spoke, "Well, sisters and brothers, I am delighted to be here in Pullman Church for this meeting, and it's a special (there was some laughter as Rev. Lawson got the name of the church wrong) Centenary United Methodist Church, Freudian slip. Anyway, I'm glad to be here at Centenary again and one of my great special privileges these days is to remember that Herbert Lester is the pastor here at Centenary and to remember when as a high school student he joined Pullman and became part of our ministries, if you like, and now he is Pastor of the church and that is wonderful from my point of view, indeed it is something that I take great joy in."


Rev. Lawson speaking at Centenary Untied Methodist Church.

"We are pleased that you are here and you are going to hear an astonishing picture this evening because you are going to hear directly from a variety of witnesses that William Gibbons refuses to allow to get into court for a full hearing. The reason he refuses, like many D.A.'s across the country is, because he knows if this happens in court then his case against James Earl Ray will absolutely collapse because it was circumstantial in the first instance. It had no grounding, no foundation in reality, except that it was an easy way of trying to claim that the murder was solved and that therefore, the people of Memphis, and the country could rest at peace. But let me say to you that as the chair of the strategy committee of the sanitation strike in 1968. We knew that something was dastardly wrong with that estimate from the FBI, the police, and the D.A. And we are here tonight, after many years of effort to try to get this matter into court where it rightfully belongs because we want some of the people of Memphis and some of the folks gathered here to hear some of the witnesses who themselves can tell you what they saw, what they heard, what they know which would challenge the official story.

"And let me add just one other word, the assassinations of the 1960's changed this country forever, and especially the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr., who by this time, by April the 4th of 1968, had become without any kind of reservation or hesitation, unconditionally, the extraordinary prophetic word for this nation and for the world. And his death was a massive loss. I call it the crucifixion of Martin King in Memphis, Tennessee."

"Now a person who has worked heroically and sacrificially on behalf of the investigation, on behalf of his client James Earl Ray is William Pepper. And I am going to ask now that William Pepper would come forward,...I'm sorry, I've lost my order and let me go back. The politics of assassination in the United States changed America forever. If there is any hope at all that this nation can move back into a course of justice and peace, the Martin Luther King crucifixion is the one that we could now solve. We have basically solved it.

"It's the one that if we ever got a court of law to hear it we would have it resolved.

The D.A. going to the Appeals Court to get Judge Joe Brown off the case is another one of their desperate efforts because they want to close it down, prevent there from ever being a court hearing of this matter because they know that they do not have a case.

"Now one of the people who across the years has investigated Martin Luther King's crucifixion for a number of years, who has written books on it is here this evening as a part, indeed of the Committee of Political Assassinations which is a national network that has continued to study and investigate all the assassinations of the 1960's. Philip Melanson is a Professor of Political Science at the University of Massachusetts at Dartmouth. He is the author of some 11 books on a variety of issues related to political science, two of those books particularly have been on the Martin Luther King assassination. I would urge people here this evening, if you have not read Phil Melanson's books to go and get them. If you have not read William Pepper's book, "Orders to Kill", the truth about the assassination of Martin Luther King jr.. I urge you to read some of these books. Philip Melanson has systematically sought to understand the politics of assassination in the 1960's and is here this weekend with COPA in their national and annual gathering, also to support this meeting, also to continue their own work, hoping that one day the American people will have an opportunity in courts, if not in courts, in public hearings to hear the truth about the assassinations of the 1960's, and so Dr. Philip Melanson would you come forward please?"

(applause)

Phil Melanson - "I am going to be very brief. I do want to welcome you on behalf of the co-sponsoring organization, the Coalition on Political Assassinations. And that is an organization that has worked tirelessly in the last several years to get documents released and to encourage the truth. I am not going to go into any theories or research but I do want to make one basic important point now, the extraordinary accounts that you are about to hear from the witnesses to the various aspects of this case are by no means all the accounts that exist. These are the people who are courageous enough, and willing enough, and able to come forward, and there are others such that any official body, any official spokespeople, any government agency, or any courts that will tell us, the American people that there is no evidence to pursue, that the questions have been settled, and that the case is solved, are simply lying, and if that is not demonstrated tonight I don't know what it will take to demonstrate it.

"But there's more, there's more evidence, and putting this together tonight with the people that are here, and putting this together with the additional evidence this case can be solved, and we know it should be solved even after 30 years. Thank you."

(applause)

Rev. Lawson - "And across the years of the investigation, my friend and colleague, and the man who has been the primary engineer of the investigation and because he is the lawyer for James Earl Ray, and has been all these years, is the man who has been persuaded by his own investigation, by the many witnesses he has been able to depose and discover is William Pepper. William Pepper is a man of enormous courage. His life has been persistently under threat because he has continued to pursue this matter. He has been warned off. His book, "Orders to Kill" when published in 1995 was suppressed. The Commercial Appeal did not do a review of it. The New York Times did not do a review of it. The book has now been republished in paperback edition by Time-Warner. We are not sure when that is available in the bookstores, but we know that in that book William Pepper goes further to insist that the case basically is solved and to name the actual assassin of Martin Luther King jr. We urge you to read this books.

"Bill Pepper is a man of integrity, he is a person of great courage. He is a person who has sacrificed his own reputation, his own well being, including his livelihood, his practice, as an international lawyer and human rights, out of London, often sacrificed the well being of his family, though he has done an enormously beautiful job of seeing that family grow and mature towards adulthood. And yet he has continued to press on. He ought to be a hero in American life, because we make our heroes, people like Ronald Reagan, (that was sarcasm, folks) people, we can recognize the true heroes of our time.

(applause)

"And so in presenting William Pepper I simply want to commend him to you as a person we ought to know because he represents the finest tradition of American heroism for causes that are often slammed by the status quo, which shows the tenacity and firmness of character to keep pressing on. Now he will present the witnesses, and we are going to ask that no questions now be asked of the witnesses but however, after they have finished their story and we conclude the meeting if they are any of you who wish to ask questions of any of these witnesses you can feel free to do so and they will remain around. At this moment, as Phil Melanson said there are over 90 witnesses from the United States, Canada, and Great Britain who independently of each other will cooperate different aspects of the story which shows among other things that William Gibbons lies. If he knows the evidence of this matter, if he knows the scenarios of this case, he either lies deliberately, or he lies without knowing that he is lying. BUT HE IS GROTESQUELY WRONG! As a District Attorney he is like the District Attorney in Los Angeles, Gil Carcetti, Gill Carcetti is the D.A. in L.A. County, never makes a mistake. So it took Johnny Cochran and others 27 years to get Geranimo Pratt into a courtroom just for a simple evidentiary hearing. That took place last December. It was before an Orange County judge who had been appointed by Ronald Reagan, and that judge on hearing the witnesses and hearing the evidence told the D.A. in Los Angeles county to release Geranimo Pratt from prison and you either order a new trial or you let him go. Geranimo Pratt had been accused in 1968 of a murder in Santa Monica that he had not done. He stayed in jail for 27 years. William Gibbons is exactly like that.

"And we urge you to hear carefully these witnesses for the first time in a public fashion in Memphis and to hear what they have to say.

"A final word, we understand now that Mrs. Coretta King has called upon President Clinton to have a national commitment, to have full hearings of all of these witnesses that Gibbons will not allow to get into court [so that they] will have a chance to tell a bona fide commission what they saw and what they heard so that we can get to the truth of the matter of the assassination of Martin Luther King jr.

"Let me now present my very, very dear friend and colleague, a man I admire greatly Dr. William Pepper."


Dr. William Pepper

Dr. Pepper - "You won't ever stop doing that, Jim Lawson, always a very, very difficult act to follow. I think that no matter what any of us does it pales to insignificance compared with what Martin King did, and what he left for us, his legacy. And if you will bear with me a little bit this evening I would like to talk a bit about that legacy. And I was reminded earlier about Rabbi Abraham Heshel(?) comments 31 years ago about Martin King the year before his death. Rabbi Heshel called Martin King the greatest prophet that this republic had ever produced. And he said that the quality of life in America, that the soul of democracy and it's health, and the salvation of liberty in this land will depend solely, he said, upon the degree to which America heeds this prophet and his vision.

"A year later Martin King was taken from this great republic, it lost it's truly greatest prophet. One can look back from that point to this and asses the quality of life and the health of democracy in this land and make a judgment as to what has happened when we have not had that impact, when we have not followed that vision, and when we have lost that prophet 30 years ago.

"So look about you, what do we have? What is going on in this land? Is there still the pervasive sickness that Martin King saw, in this body politick? Does it still exist throughout this land? Are we still a people here who love and worship the gun? Is violence not an everyday part of our lives?

"And what about the poor? Martin was mostly concerned about the poor. It was his commitment to the poor, ultimately, which got him killed. The poor of America, and the poor of the world, because he saw the kinship between the poor people of Vietnam and the poor people in the streets and in the rural areas of his homeland. He didn't distinguish between them. I remember one time I showed him photographs of burned children and mutilated women in Vietnam he became very sad and started to weep, because he didn't draw the distinction between Vietnamese atrocities and American atrocities. He knew that American blacks were cannon fodder in Vietnam. And that was wrong. But, he also knew that they were being forced and subjected to perform acts of brutality in that far off land. So, he came to oppose that war with every bit of strength that he had.

"And now about the American poor, what did he do? How did that get him killed? He was going to bring a half million people to Washington that last year of his life. In the Spring of that year he was going to bring that group, that mob as it was called, those alienated, miserable wretches, those people who [somebody] always referred to as 'the wretched of the earth', and here they were in America, half a million strong going to camp, not just march, but camp in the shadow of the Washington monument until Congress would be moved to do something, to alleviate the plight and the suffering of them and their families. Martin King was never going to be allowed to bring that mass of humanity to Washington because powerful forces in this land were convinced it would turn into a rebellion. And they didn't have the troops to put it down. So he had to be stopped at all costs. So it was this commitment to the poor that ultimately got him stopped.

"And in the 30 years what has happened? Have the homeless grown in America? Yes. The homeless have grown in America. Has violence grown in America? Yes. Violence has grown in America. Is there still the worship of the gun in America? How much discussion was there ever about the banning of guns in this country after an event like the one that has just taken place? How many column inches were written about the possibility of denying weapons of that sort to people in this land?

"When we had the Dunblaine massacre in England [actually in Scotland] WHERE GUNS ARE BANNED, the guns came from a gun club, and immediately after that all of the gun clubs were restricted in England, so that the tightest gun control laws in the whole world exist in that country now. But, what about here? Why is the worship of the gun so important when it has deprived so many of so many loved ones, and their families. This is the culture of violence that Martin Luther King couldn't abide because he was a man of peace.

"Have the poor grown in this land? Do the poor have adequate health and education in this land? Are there social services of the sort that half a million were going to try to extract from their government?

"The answers are self evident. 365 people control the same amount of wealth on this planet a 2 and one half billion, half of the population of the planet. If that kind of wealth is in the hands of that few people, and if the numbers of the poor are growing, and growing, and growing, it's only a matter, I suggest, friends, of time. But the possible explosion will be such that Martin would have abhorred it. Because the culture of violence would have turned inward, and the cities, once again I fear, will burn, as the barbarians, as they are called, rally at the gates.

"So, this is what Martin hoped to avoid. He hoped to avoid the disproportionate number of people of color in prisons and on death rows. It's not been avoided, his legacy has been rejected. From beginning to end, I fear, the legacy has been rejected, and the country is worse off, and the republic is ill.

"And he said at Riverside Church on April 4 of 1967, one year to the day of his death, that this country was the greatest purveyor of violence on the face of the earth. If anything it has gotten worse, but sadly so much of it has turned inward, and not just against people of color, but against poor people everywhere.

"So it's important I think just to reflect upon that legacy and what it's loss has meant to us. Rabbi Heshel was spot on with his analysis, and we have lost so much with the death of this great prophet.

"And he was not just a Civil Rights leader, he was a political figure and an international figure of immense stature. Throughout the world he was revered. And at home, this prophet in his own land, he was rejected, from time to time, but still he kept on, and still he persevered. So I am grateful for brother Lawson's kind words, but anything that I do, anything that any of us does must pale in insignificance in comparison to what this man did in his lifetime. If you wish to attempt to restore this legacy, if you wish to call again upon the forces that can restore liberty in this country, then a step must be taken to try to solve once and for all the absence of truth in this case.

"Coretta King's request for a national commission, is an important step, not that a political body will ever do the right thing in a case of this sort, but that perhaps some of these people who come here tonight, and many others like them who have information on this case will be able to go to the cameras, in the light of day and tell their story under oath. And let their evidence be tested under oath, NOT BURIED, NOT SHUNTED ASIDE, NOT DISMISSED AS IRRELEVANT, NO, let it come forward, and let it be told, and let it be tested. And that is what a commission can do, and I urge you please to communicate to the White House and give them every reason, every means, every bit of support for the appointment of this commission.

"And the second part of this commission is most important, what the King family is talking about is not just another Congressional investigation, they are talking about a commission that has the power to grant immunity, they are talking about a commission modeled on the South African model with a focus on the truth and reconciliation. They are not talking about punishment. These people have not a retributive bone in their body. All they want is the truth. They don't want anyone punished.

"So this commission must have the authority, which is anti-American, it must have the authority to grant immunity from prosecution, so that the truth can come forward, SO THAT THE HEALING CAN BEGIN, SO THAT THIS LAND CAN AT LAST BE REDEEMED, because of this awful, awful tragedy. So no matter how poorly it has functioned to date, no mater how bad and how evil are the forces that have killed him, they don't want punishment, they don't want punishment, they want the truth, and they want healing. But, YOU HAVE TO DO SOMETHING, AND YOU HAVE TO GET YOUR NEIGHBORS TO DO SOMETHING, AND YOU HAVE TO GET YOUR PASTORS TO DO SOMETHING, AND YOU HAVE TO RISE UP AND YOU HAVE TO DEMAND; I was appalled when Judge Joe Brown was removed from this case. HE WAS REMOVED IN THE DARKNESS OF NIGHT! HE WAS REMOVED WHEN NO ONE KNEW WHAT WAS HAPPENING! HE WAS REMOVED WITHOUT ARGUMENT! HE WAS REMOVED WITHOUT ANY DISSENT! HE WAS REMOVED WITHOUT ANY OBJECTION! HE WAS REMOVED BY A COURT OF APPEALS WHO COULD NOT STAND UP IN THE DAY AND DEFEND A DECISION TO TAKE THIS BLACK JUDGE OFF THIS CASE WHEN HE WAS PUSHING IT TOWARD THE TRUTH!!

(applause)

"BUT WHAT DID YOU DO? MEMPHIANS?? WHAT DID THE BLACK COMMUNITY DO?? WHAT DID THE BLACK LEADERSHIP DO?? WHEN THIS ATROCITY WAS BEING PERPETRATED BEFORE THEIR VERY EYES? WHAT DID THEY DO?? WHAT DID YOU DO??

A single audience member, rather quietly responded, "nothing".

Pepper, hearing it, acknowledged and hit the podium, "NOTHING!!! HOW LONG WILL YOU CONTINUE TO BE SILENT WHEN THEY TROD OVER YOU LIKE THIS? WHEN THEY DENY YOU THE TRUTH, WHEN THEY SUPPRESS KNOWLEDGE THAT YOU NEED, WHEN THEY MANIPULATE THE MEDIA LIKE THEY DO, WHEN THE FOSTER MISTRUTH, DISTORTION, HALF-TRUTH, AND BLEND IT WITH THE OCCASIONAL TRUTH, HOW LONG WILL YOU TOLERATE THIS BEHAVIOR??

"Now it's time, I come from another age, as a very young person I saw cities burn, I saw atrocities I wish I never saw, but I also saw a people, a people who had a pride in their liberty and who were determined to make this republic live up to its ideals. I saw those people rise up, and I saw them take on their government. And I saw them realize that they didn't have the money to wheel power but they had the numbers to make the government listen. Once again it must be so or this nation will perish in betrayal of the legacy of Martin Luther King.

"Now, I am going to call on some very brave people. They are a handful of very courageous people, who over the years have come in from the cold and told their stories. They are people who have been maligned, in some cases, laughed at, in some cases, imagine now the government line through the government publicists, the recent government publicists, says that the recent King family actions are laughable, the arrogance, the arrogance of these people, of this family, that has suffered so much, they are seeking the truth, and their actions are laughable.

"Well, I am indebted to these folks who have sustained work that I have been about for 20 years and I am grateful to them for coming forward this evening, and many like them who couldn't make it because of very short notice. So I think that what we should do is begin now, and let's hear what they have to say, some of these folks, who have never been heard before, who have never been listened to before, who will tell you things that you never knew, perhaps, and they will range from a black detective who was part of a group that protected Martin King all the time when he was in Memphis that somehow was not informed the last time he was here, to people who have knowledge of what happened that afternoon, in the bushes behind Jim's Grill, to others who know about the shadowy figure who controlled James Earl Ray, and manipulated him, on and on. But, let's begin and try to move in chronological order with the folks who have not been able, and a number have apologized, had they known they would have been here, but the notice was very short. [COPA!!!] Let's move on with those who are here and begin to hear what they have to say.

"Ladies and gentlemen, the first person I'd like to call is former detective, Memphis Police Department Detective, Jerry Williams. Jerry?"

(applause)


Jerry Williams

"My name is Jerry Williams. I worked for the Memphis Police Department for 32 years. Dr. Lawson reminded me tonight that it was around 1966, June, that I met Dr. King...

[END TAPE #1 SIDE A]

Jerry Williams (cont'd) - "...to see Dr. King at which time we saw him lying in the emergency room and his chest was laid open as the doctors tried to message his heart to try to restore life.

"I never will forget that day because as we passed the police station going north on Second St. on our way to the hospital I saw at least one hundred uniformed policemen, and I could see the hostility, the anger, in their faces, and it was showing me that they were glad that this Black man had been assassinated.

"Only one man of that group came to me and said, 'Jerry, I'm sorry that Dr. King was shot. They didn't have to do that to him.' Only one of the white officers who I was with that afternoon of the assassination.

"Now, as I said, I do not know why we were not assigned for his protection, but I would like to say this, we would have discouraged him from staying at the Lorraine.

Usually when we would take care of Dr. King on his arrival we would take him to the Rivermont. We would not have allowed him to stay there [at the Lorraine] I don't know what was the purpose, or who made the decision to let him stay in that open view at the Lorraine where weeds and everything just north of there could have been a good place for an ambush, but I can tell you ladies and gentlemen that at the Lorraine, that Black officers, which would have been under my charge would have been assigned, I'm not saying that he would not have been assassinated, but it wouldn't have been that easy.

"And I would say just one more thing, in 1968 Memphis was changing into a new form of government. We went from a commission form of government to a city council form of government, the present make-up me have now. The late [somebody] he may have been a racist but he was a professional police officer, he had told me in his staff room, with my men on the security detail, if Dr. King is assassinated we don't want it to happen here in Memphis. He said don't worry about the overtime, you stay with this man when he's here, two days, three days, you stay with him, you must stay with him and guard him and protect him.

"However, during the transition from the commission form of government to the present city council form of government we had a new police chief who was insensitive and who just did not care. And we had a mayor who was also insensitive. And Memphis has been noted as a city, traditionally as a city of good morals (?), but there were no good morals shown that time, and during those times. The tension in Memphis was so thick then you could almost cut it with a knife."

(applause)

Dr. Pepper - "Just to elaborate on what Jerry said, and Jerry thank you very much. When Mrs. (Lorraine) Bailey heard instantly that Martin Luther King was shot at the Lorraine, members of the staff of the Lorraine told me she said, 'Oh my god, what have I done?' And she streaked to her room and locked the door. And she was taken to the hospital some time later and died of a cerebral hemorrhage, never regaining consciousness. This was the manageress of the Lorraine hotel. And what she had done was change Martin King's room from a courtyard room, down in 202, to 306. And she had done that because she was requested to do that by someone who had appeared and indicated, indicated representation of Dr. King and S.C. L.C. and said you must have a room, an open room on the balcony which overlooks the swimming pool. The pool was empty that time of year anyway. But she did, she complied, and she made the switch. That's how Martin King ended up on that balcony, room 306. And Mrs. Bailey lost her life as well that day.


Go to Part Two.


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