ON THIS DAY: James Earl Ray Pleaded Guilty For The Assassination of Martin Luther King Jr, 50 Years Ago, on March 10, 1969

WASHINGTON – James Earl Ray pleaded guilty 50 years ago on March 10, 1969 for assassinating civil rights activist Martin Luther King Jr.

The guilty plea landed on Ray’s 41st birthday.

Ray tried to take back his guilty plea and claimed he was set up as part of a conspiracy three days later, according to History. Various law enforcement organizations re-examined the assassination over the years, with the Justice Department looking into it three times. They all concluded Ray killed King.

King was shot while standing out on a balcony outside the Lorraine Motel in Memphis, Tennessee, on April 4, 1968.


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Ray had a history of criminal activity and served time in prison in Illinois and Missouri. He escaped the Missouri State Penitentiary in April 1967, according to Britannica.

He also escaped prison in 1977 before getting caught, History reported.

King’s children and widow, however, believed Ray was not responsible for the assassination. A Memphis jury ruled there was government involvement in King’s assassination in 1999, The Washington Post reported.

King was wiretapped and constantly watched by the FBI, according to History. Former FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover reportedly believed King was influenced by communism. King supported guaranteed annual income for everybody and was against the Vietnam War.

Ray died in 1998.

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