Thursday, April 03, 2008
CNN special on Martin Luther King's assassination in 1968
April 3, 2008 CNN aired a two-hour report “Eyewitness to Murder: The King Assassination,”(CNN website) (part of the new “Black in America” series) with Soledad O’Brien narrating, as a detailed forensic documentary about the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King at the Lorraine Motel in Memphis, TN on Thursday, April 4, 1968.
I was in Special Training Company at Fort Jackson, S.C., having been recycled from a Basic Training Company when that happened. I recall one of the worst days of my life, Sunday March 31, when, on KP, I was cleaning out the grease pit with a toothbrush. Later that evening, while still on duty in the kitchen, I overheard Lyndon Johnson’s announcement that he would not run in 1968. Four days later, I remember we, housed in “Tent City,” were told we are on “Red Alert,” to be bussed into downtown Columbia, SC as a show of force after the assassination. That didn’t happen. The film did show briefly the carnage from the riots on 14th St in Washington.
The film details the movements of petty thief James Earl Ray before and after the crime. Ray had escaped from prison. There was a period in Montreal and a mysterious person called “Raoul.” The shooting came from a rooming house near the motel, and King, for some reason, was standing on the second floor landing, with lax security. Ray would be arrested in London a month later, trying to go to a country in Africa with no extradition treaty to the US. He would accept a plea deal, and then try to retract it. He would die in prison at age 70 in 1998.
The film examines the theory by Dr. William Pepper, and the reinvestigation in the 1990s (with the help of now TV judge Joe Brown) of the possibility of a conspiracy. In the final analysis, a bag left by Ray at the motel now seems to establish his guilt.
The film also documents the way King was a mark for J. Edgar Hoover and the FBI, which considered him the most dangerous “N___” in the country. Former deputy Andrew Young appears in the film and says “that’s a complement.” The FBI and even Army intelligence cased out the motel area before King’s stay.
Update: April 27 2008
See also "The Night James Brown Saved Boston" on the movies blog, here.