Minister and civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated in Memphis, Tennessee, on April 4, 1968. The King Center‘s official biography does mention his death, but it does not include the name of the assassin. This might be to avoid giving a murderer more attention — but it might also be because most members of the King family do not believe the man who was jailed for the assassination was actually responsible for it.

By 1997, James Earl Ray, who had confessed to shooting Martin Luther King Jr., was dying. He’d also changed his tune and claimed he was not the assassin, but a mysterious man named “Raoul” actually pulled the trigger. With Ray’s time running out, Martin’s son Dexter King went to visit him in prison. According to The Washington Post, Dexter asked Ray flat-out, “I just want to ask you for the record, did you kill my father?” “No, no, no, I didn’t, no,” Ray responded. 

Dexter assured him that the family believed his denial, and other members have spoken to that effect over the years. “It pains my heart,” said Dexter’s sister Bernice King to The Washington Post, “that James Earl Ray had to spend his life in prison paying for things he didn’t do.” And before her death, Martin’s widow Coretta Scott King said, “There is abundant evidence of a major, high-level conspiracy in the assassination of my husband.”

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