Conspiracy Corner Presents: Did the FBI Have MLK Killed?

Sarah Durante

Your Assassination Destination for Paranoia

EVERY year, we get a three day weekend in memory of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. As most of us know, MLK was a Baptist minister who fought for civil rights in the late 1950’s and early 1960’s. He led the Southern Christian Leadership Conference and gave speeches all over the country. He led marches and was a public activist for desegregation of African Americans. He is most known for his Montgomery Bus Boycott and his “I Have a Dream” speech that he gave on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial. He also played a pivotal role in the passing of the Civil Rights Act (1964) and the Voting Rights Act (1965).

On April 4th, 1968, in Memphis, Tennessee, Martin Luther King, Jr. was shot on the balcony of the Lorraine Motel. He was pronounced dead at St. Joseph’s Hospital an hour later. Since that day, the federal government has blamed James Earl Ray for the murder. However, there has been a long-maintained belief by the King family that this just isn’t true. There is an abundant amount of evidence linking Ray to the murder, and there’s no denying that he delivered that fatal shot. However, it’s widely believed that Ray received assistance from the FBI.

The FBI began monitoring King in December of 1955, during his involvement with the Montgomery Bus Boycott. It was no secret that the FBI did not look on Dr. King as a friend. The director of the FBI, director J. Edgar Hoover, publicly disapproved of King. He believed that King was influenced by communists, and that King was plotting disruptive and disorderly protests around the country.

The hostility increased after King called the FBI “completely ineffectual in resolving continued mayhem brutality inflicted upon the negro in the deep south,” in April of 1964. In response to this, Domestic Intelligence Chief William Sullivan wrote in a memo, “We must mark him now, if we have not done so before, as the most dangerous Negro of the future in this nation from the standpoint of communism, the Negro and national security.” The FBI then began launching operations to stop King, continuing their efforts until his death in 1968.

When Hoover discovered King’s relations with multiple women, he gave special permission for FBI agents to follow King nightly. This operation produced one of the most notable pieces of evidence in this theory: the “suicide letter.”

After years of researching and gathering evidence of King’s infidelity, the FBI sent him a letter threatening to “out him” on a national stage. They called him a “colossal fraud,” as well as “an evil, enormous beast.” The letter went on to say, “The American public, the church organizations that you have been helping – Protestant, Catholic, and Jews will know what you are – evil.” The letter was full of threats, taunts, and ended with an ultimatum, “King, there is only one thing left to do. You have 34 days in which to do it. You are done. There is only one way out for you. You better take it before your filthy, abnormal, fraudulent self is bared to the nation.” It was quite obvious that the FBI was pressuring King to kill himself. If not, they’d ruin his reputation.

After shooting King, James Earl Ray was chased down and caught in London’s Heathrow airport about a month later. He was carrying two Canadian passports when he was taken into custody.

After initially confessing to the crime, Ray switched things up and claimed his innocence. He said that a man named “Raoul” convinced him to actually buy the guns, and rent the room across the street from the motel where the assassination happened. While it’s confirmed that Ray pulled the trigger, he could’ve easily been persuaded. He was a proponent for segregation, and any push to his temper could’ve caused him to act. He had just escaped the Missouri State Penitentiary, and was convicted of multiple crimes before the murder of MLK.

While the FBI claims that “Raoul” doesn’t exist, many people find it difficult to believe that Ray orchestrated a whole international escape on such short notice, especially considering that he’d been caught for far more minor crimes.

While both of these situations contribute to the conspiracy, the most concerning piece of evidence comes from a worker at the hospital King was taken to.

Lula Mae Shelby was a surgical aide at St. Joseph’s Hospital the night that King was shot. She told a story to her son, who then told the story to William Francis Pepper, who wrote the book The Plot to Kill King. Lula Mae Shelby described the chief of surgery, Dr. Breen Bland, as having entered the operating room with two men in suits, shouting, “Stop working on him and let him die!

Now, all of you get out of here right now. Everybody get out.” As she was leaving, she looked over her shoulder to see the three men spitting in King’s face after they removed King’s breathing tube.
This story added to Coretta Scott King’s belief that the government was involved in her husband’s murder. In 1999, she even opened a court case against one of the men she believed was involved.

While the details surrounding the case are shrouded in disagreement, it was decided that Ray was rightfully convicted. While Ray’s conviction doesn’t answer the question of whether the FBI was involved or not, it would be naive to assume that they were not. From the government surveillance, to the suicide letter, to Ray’s confession, and the evidence published in The Plot to Kill King, it’s safe to say that the government was definitely involved, in some measure, in the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.