Q382 Transcript

(Note: This tape was transcribed by Kathy Barbour. The editors gratefully acknowledge her invaluable assistance. If you use this material, please credit The Jonestown Institute. Thank you.)

To return to the Tape Index, click here.
To read the Tape Summary, click here. Listen to MP3 (Pt. 1Pt. 2).

Mark Lane: I’d like to talk with you a little bit this evening about the– about the murder of Dr. Martin Luther King, because so much changed in America when Dr. King was killed. Over the years, I’ve been involved in investigating other assassinations, including the assassination of President John F. Kennedy, but however important the president might be, presidents come and go, and politicians come and go, but there never was anyone quite like Martin Luther King, and those people who knew him, who were (unintelligible under tape fade) who went to jail there with him, know that there probably has never been anyone quite like that before and probably will never be anyone quite like that again. And that was one of the great losses and changed the whole face of America and I think changed the relations in the course of history for the whole world. And it’s important to remember that Dr. King was shot to death on April 4, 1968, and a year to the day before that, on April 4, 1967, he took a very powerful and strong public position against the war in Vietnam. One year later, to the day, he was dead, shot to death in Memphis, Tennessee.

I’d like to tell you about a woman whose name is not very well known, but who becomes an important figure in contemporary American history. Her name is Grace Walden, and she lived at 418½ S. Main Street in Memphis, Tennessee. On April 4th, earlier that day, a man named Jim McCraw, a taxi driver in Memphis, went into Jim’s Grill, a bar and restaurant on South Main Street, went inside and saw sitting over in the corner, a man named Charlie Stephens, a man who had– had been drunk regularly for some 25 years that the taxi driver knew him, and was sitting there at about noon, drinking and drunk then, drinking beer. He saw him, and then he left, Mr. McCraw left, went out to drive his taxi. Just before he left, Stephens staggered over to the counter, bought four quarts of beer, had them put them in this paper sack, and went up to the room which he shared with Grace Walden. It wasn’t a very important rooming house at that time, but soon the whole world was looking at it because there was a community bathroom which shared a common wall with their little apartment, the little apartment that Grace Walden and Charlie Stephens were in. And from that community bathroom came the shot, across Mulberry Street onto the balcony of the Lorraine Motel, the shot later fired that day which killed Dr. King.

A man named Lloyd Jowers owned Jim’s Grill, and he went into his place at four o’clock that afternoon, and he saw Charlie Stephens was back down in the– in the bar part of the restaurant and was drinking and was drunk, and he sold four more quarts of beer to Charlie Stephens, who went back up to his room and took them up there. The next person besides Grace Walden to see Charlie Stephens was Jim McCraw, the taxi driver. He was driving around town, and the dispatcher said, “Report back to 418½, pick up Stephens, he wants you to take him to a bar.” Well, Stephens was drinking, was drunk, and this was April 4th and his check came on April 3rd, and while Stephens was drunk almost all the time, you can be certain that on the 4th, 5th and 6th of the month, the days just after the check arrived, he was really drunk. McCraw went up to the room, knocked on the door, and there was– and then he heard a woman’s voice, Grace Walden saying, “Come on in, the door’s open.” He opened the door, and there he saw Grace Walden seated in a chair, reading a book. Sprawled out on the bed was Charlie Stephens. He was drunk. And McCraw said, “You’re too drunk to take.” And Stephens tried to say something, but couldn’t, because he was drunk. McCraw went downstairs, called in on the radio, told the dispatcher, “I couldn’t pick Stephens up, he was too drunk. Where should I go?” And they said, “Go to– to Frankie and Johnny’s down at the pier. There’s a fare waiting there.” He started to drive there. About six or seven minutes later, all of the lights– the traffic lights in Memphis turned red. And the dispatcher called in to all the taxi drivers, and said, “Dr. King’s been shot. Proceed very cautiously. Somebody may be running out– around out there with a gun. It may be police officers.” Which means, that as you work it back, that he saw Stephens about five or six or seven minutes before Dr. King was killed.

Grace Walden said this is what happened after the taxi driver left. She said, “Charlie said he had to go to the bathroom,” she didn’t put it quite that way, but that was the import of his remarks. And he rolled off of the bed onto the floor, got up and went to the bathroom, which was just five feet from their apartment, this community bathroom of the rooming house. And he banged on the door. The killer had been in there since five o’clock. He’d locked himself in, and other tenants had tried to get in there, but he didn’t answer – whoever he was, he didn’t answer – and remained locked in there. Charlie then staggered down the back stairs into the lot behind the building. And Grace Stephens was there, reading her book, Charlie had left the door open, and she heard a shot. She said, “I recognized that it at once as a shot. For a hunter in Arkansas, my first husband was a hunter, I knew a lot about hunting, I knew it was a shot,” she said, “so I looked up,” and she saw the killer of Dr. King come out of the bathroom, and walk down the hallway five feet from her. And then Charlie came upstairs a few minutes later. And she said, “I heard a shot, and I saw a man come out of there, and he was carrying something in his right hand.” She said, “His body intervened between me and his right hand, I couldn’t see what it was, but it was long and heavy and he swung it when he walked.” And Charlie said, “Where did he go?” She said, “He went down to the front.” Charlie said, “I’d better take a look.” And she said, “No, he’s been gone for five or ten minutes. There’s no way to find him now.” So Charlie went back into the room where he had left his glasses anyway– Remember, when he left he was just expecting to go next door to the bathroom, he left his glasses on the bed. At that time the police arrived, and reporters arrived. And they soon discovered that it was Grace Walden who was the only witness in the whole world, to the killer of Dr. King. They took her to the police station, where she was questioned by the local police and then by the FBI, the FBI took over the investigation at once. And she gave a description of the man. She said, “I’m five foot three and he’s either my height or at the most, two inches taller, the man who came out of the bathroom. Five-five. Very thin,” she said. “He was in his late 50s or early 60s. He was wearing a hunting jacket, sort of a tan or beige hunting jacket, with a bright checkered or plaid shirt underneath it, you could see it at the– at the neck, ‘cause his jacket was open down the front a little way.” She gave a very complete description. And they brought in an artist, the FBI brought in an artist, and she described to the artist what the man looked like, and a drawing was made and was sent all over Tennessee, and states near, uh– nearby. And it was not a composite based upon what various witnesses saw, it was based solely upon what Grace Walden saw, because she was the only witness in the whole world who saw the killer come out of the bathroom.

Then some time thereafter, James Earl Ray was picked up in London by Scotland Yard, based upon information given to them by the Royal Canadian Mounted Police. And when that happened, the FBI called Grace Walden into the FBI headquarters in Memphis, and said, “Here’s an affidavit. We want you to sign the affidavit so we can get Ray back here and prosecute him for the murder of Dr. King.” And she said, “Can I see a picture of the man?” And they showed her a picture of James Earl Ray, and she looked at it. She said, “That doesn’t look anything at all like the man. Nothing at all. How old is that man?” And they said that Ray was 39 years old. She said, “No, I told you, the– the man who came out of the bathroom was in his late fifties or early sixties. How tall is he?” “Well, five-eleven or six feet.” She said, “No, I told you. He was five-three or five-five. In every single respect,” she said, “this man looks nothing like the man I saw.”

And then they started to lean on her. (clears throat) They said, “You’ll be in a lot of trouble.” (coughs again, speaks aside) Oh, thank you. (pause, then back to crowd) The FBI agent said, “You’re going to be in a lot of trouble, Mrs. Walden, unless you sign that affidavit. We want to bring Ray back here and prosecute him. And the whole country wants the killer prosecuted.” She said, “Well, you catch the killer, and I’ll sign the statement. But you’ve got the wrong man.” And one of the agents said, “I want to tell you this, Mrs. Walden. If you don’t sign this statement, your life will be in danger. You will be in a great deal of trouble. And we have the power to see to it that something can happen to you.” And she said, “Well, I can’t sign the statement, because that’s not the man.” And then another agent came over, put his arm around her, said, “Oh, Mrs. Walden, he’s just a little upset about this, but we’re not bad guys. Listen, there is a reward of one hundred thousand dollars which has been put up by the Chamber of Commerce of Memphis. You sign this statement, just sign the statement, and the result will be, Ray will be brought back here, he’ll be prosecuted, and you will get a hundred thousand dollars.”

She’s a very poor lady, living on welfare. And she said, “I’m surprised at you. If I wouldn’t lie for no money, you think I would lie for a hundred thousand dollars? I couldn’t do that.” And she left. And they said, “If you leave without signing the statement, you’re going to be in very serious danger.” She said, “I can’t sign a false statement.” And so she left.

Then they brought in Charlie Stephens, because James Earl Ray was over there in England, and they had no evidence. The extradition treaty between the United States and England states that the person can be extradited to the United States if evidence is offered to the British court, and then the person can only be prosecuted for the crime for which he has been extradited. Now Ray had escaped from Missouri penitentiary a year before, he could’ve been charged with being a fugitive, he could’ve been charged with escaping, which is a separate felony, but if he was brought back, and they had evidence for that, if he was brought back under those charges, he could not be prosecuted for the murder of Dr. King, and that’s what they wanted. And they had no evidence against him, for the murder of Dr. King.

So they brought in Charlie Stephens. Poor Charlie who was drunk, and even outside of the building at the time, who never saw the man, and they said, “We’ll give you a hundred thousand dollars if you’ll sign the affidavit.” He said, “Well, you oughta talk to Grace.” He said, “Forget about Grace, we want you to sign it.” And he signed the affidavit. And that was the only evidence which was available to the British court, and that’s why James Earl Ray was brought back to the United States to be tried. Based upon that statement.

Now, what about Grace Walden? She was a danger. She was a dangerous person to them because, if there was to be a trial and she was the only witness in the world, she would’ve destroyed the case. The next day, two homicide officers came to her room, picked her up and took her to the John Gaston Hospital, the hospital for the City of Memphis, and they threw her in the mental ward. They gave her a shot of prolixin, which is disabling, sometimes up for three weeks. Her face began to twitch. And they took her, a few days later, together with a number of elderly– other elderly people. And they chained them together. This is 1968, I don’t mean handcuffs, chains. Chains around their wits– wrists, for the mental institution. Chains around their feet. Chains around their waist and chained to each other in a line. The chain gang. And they put them on a bus, and they took them to the courthouse. They took them outside, it was raining. They had them standing in the rain for about 15 minutes. And then the doctor was ready to see them.

They brought Grace Walden in, and the doctor said to her, “Why are you here?” And she said, “I think it’s because I wouldn’t lie about the murder of Dr. King.” “Well, do you have any fears?” She said, “I am afraid of the trial because they said that my life would be in danger if I testify at the trial.” And the doctor then went with Grace Walden before the judge. And he said, “Judge, this woman has hallucinations. She thinks she was a witness to the murder of Dr. King. And she also has suicidal tendencies anticipating the trial.” And the judge signed an order putting her in a mental institution. And they transported her by sheriff’s car to the Bolivar Hospital in Bolivar, Tennessee, a mental institution.

Ten years later, she was still in that mental institution. Ten years later. And her only crime was that she would not lie about the murder of Dr. King. I heard about it and I went to see her several months ago. And I didn’t go into the administration ward, I went directly to where she was. And I asked one of the patients there if Grace Walden was there. And there she was, walking down the hallway, and she came and she sat down with me in the hallway, on a couple chairs there. And I didn’t tell her that I was the lawyer for James Earl Ray, because I didn’t want to influence her. I just said, “I’m a lawyer looking into the case of the murder of Dr. King, I wondered if you could tell me about it.” She said, “I can tell you about it, but I can’t change my story.” She says, “I can’t lie about what I saw. And if you came here to offer me money or tell me I could be let out of here, I’m not gonna lie.”

And I said, “No, I– I don’t want you to lie. I just want you to tell me.” I said, “Can I tape-record this?” And they said, “Sure.” She said, “Sure, if it’ll make it easier for you.” So I put on a tape recording, and she described the whole thing that I told you. About what she saw that day. At that time, three guards burst into this, reh– uh, waiting room area, three male guards and two female guards. The two women guards grabbed Grace and dragged her off and threw her back into a locked-in area, and the three male guards said to me, (clears throat) “Give us that tape recording at once.” This was the first time since Dr. King had been killed, and almost ten years had passed, the first time anybody ever had made a recording of this important witness. And I thought it was important in terms of getting the facts, and also I thought it was important in terms of protecting her to have that record out of the hospital, because then no matter what they did to her, the record would remain, which means there’d be no sense in doing anything more to her. And one of the guards said, “Give me that tape.” And I said, “All right, I’m going to tell you this. My name is Mark Lane, I’m the attorney for James Earl Ray. I’m investigating the murder of Dr. King, and this is part of my work and you can’t have it.” And the guard said, “I’m gonna take that tape.” And I said, “I want you to understand this. There is no way in the world you will ever get that tape. No way. So you might as well think about more constructive and rewar– rewarding tasks, there’s no way you’ll get this.”

Crowd: (laughter, cheers, applause)

Lane: And I had gone there with a– an investigator named Renfro Hayes, a local investigator from Memphis, and with the woman who was a friend of his, who drove us there in her old, old car, but the car got us there, about 70 miles from Memphis, and I said to her– her name was Sammy Cook– I said to her, “Let’s go, I wanna– I want to meet with the head of this institution and make a– file a complaint against these three guards interfering with my interview with Grace Walden.” And they said, “You’re not going anywhere.” And then another couple of people joined, and one of them was the switchboard operator. And she said, “You know, you’re not allowed to talk to Grace Walden.” I said, “Why not?” She said, “Well, why, we have it on my desk in there, where I have a switchboard, pasted up on the wall. It’s an order from the director of the institution, saying that no one can talk to Grace Walden. She can’t receive any phone calls. And no one can visit her.” I said, “Does that apply to everybody in institution?” They said, “No, just her.” I said, “I’m gonna go file a complaint with them right now.” And a guard said, “You’re not leaving.” Well, I don’t generally use force or violence. I only do that when it seems that’s necessary.

Crowd: (laughter)

Lane: And so I pushed one of the guards out of the way, ran out to the car. Sammy Cook, the woman whose car it was, jumped in the front seat, and behind the driver’s seat, behind the wheel, and I jumped in alongside of her. The investigator Renfro Hayes is a big heavy guy, he sort of moved slowly, and he never quite made it to the car in time–

Crowd: (laughter)

Lane: –and so uh, we– we drove off and left him there. I uh, I hated to do it, but uh, I thought the tape was important. We got out of there, and we’re driving down the highway back toward Memphis, and we’d gone about two miles, and there was a flashing red light on a vehicle behind us, it was a police car. And police officers pulled us over to the side of the road, Sammy Cook in this old car, said uh, “This car’s in pretty good shape, although it’s old.” She said, “Should I try to outrun them?” I said– I said, “No, don’t try to outrun them.” And so it, uh, “Just pull over.” So we pulled over. And I had taken the tape out and hid it under the floorboard. I put a blank tape in there, and I said, “interview with Grace Walden” I wrote on that. She says– she said, “Are you going to give them that?” I said, “No, I’m not even going to give them that. That’s just in case worse comes to worst.” Anyway, they pulled us over, there’re two police officers, wearing guns with walkie-talkies, and one of them said, uh, “You have to go right back to the in– institution and see– meet with the director at once. He wants to talk to you. And bring the tape with you.” And I said, “Do you work for the state?” He said, “Yes.” I said, “Are you a state highway patrolman?” He said, “No, I’m in charge of security for the mental institution. Total charge of security there.” I said, “Would it be safe to say that your area of jurisdiction is confined to the institution?”

Crowd: (laughter, calls, applause)

Lane: And, he said, “Yes, that’s right.” And I said, “Well, goodbye.” And we drove off.

Crowd: (laughter, cheers, applause)

Lane: We– we got the tape back to Memphis, we made many copies and we sent them around, so we had that– the tape secured. And then I was concerned about poor Renfro Hayes, who we’d left, it was getting pretty chilly, and he had worn a jacket, but he’d left the jacket in the car. So he was just there in his shirtsleeves, and uh, we tried to find him, we had difficulty finding him. And uh, he found me two days later, though. He was a little bit angry. He said, uh, he decided he said, he was going to go for a uh, walk down the highway and hitch a ride. So that’s what he did, it was quite cold, he was just wearing a shirt, and it was chilly, and he went down and he hitched a ride and a car stopped and he got in, and the lady driving a car said, uh, “You know, don’t you think the best thing would be not to run away from the institution?”

Crowd: (laughter)

Lane: And, uh, she drove him right back and turned him in, thinking he was a patient trying to escape.

Crowd: (reacts)

Lane: (clears throat) Anyway, he had a lot of complaints. The, uh– I went back and saw Grace after that. And I got to know her and I got to love her. And I was deeply cons– well, I– I loved her all along, because of what she did. But then I– I got to love her as a person. And it was clear that, although her mind was clear– she read, that was the way she survived– she read a book every single day. In the ten-year period she read how many, hundreds and hundreds of books, I don’t know. There– there were other people there. They had cats at the institution. And she took care of the cats. And one day, the order came from the director and they picked up and drowned all the cats, the guards. And that was the only thing that– the only other contact she had with people there. Many of the people were really crazy. And it was very hard to have uh– and there was no effort to help them, at all. And it was very hard for her to survive, and she was very often in a room by herself, and– but she read, and she tried to keep her mind going in the face of – we s– have now, the medical records, she was given thorazine every day, and she was given prolixin, and just one drug after another, all for the purpose of destroying her mind. And it did, of course, have a permanent effect.

And if you look into a mental institution, you’ll see people there who look crazy. I mean, they are– they look the way we perceive a crazy person to be and they are– look – they actually not– don’t look crazy, that’s just our perception. They look like people who’ve been given drugs. Their mouth hangs open, start to walk with a limp. All of these physical reactions which come from the massive drug doses, but most of us look at them and say, well, these people are crazy. And some of it is– after a long period of time, it’s irreversible. And with Grace, some of the physical damage I think may be irreversible. In any event, she said, uh, when I saw her two or three more times, she said, “You know– Could you get me out of here?” And I said, “I’m going to do everything I can.” And I knew that it was a political decision which had been made to put her in there, and while we could bring an action in the court system, it wasn’t really a legal statement that we needed as much as a political statement. And so I met in Los Angeles with Reverend James Lawson, a marvelous minister who was in fact one of Dr. King’s closest workers, he taught the schools of nonviolence for Dr. King, he in fact was the Chairman of the Strategy Committee for the sanitation strike in Memphis in 1968, he had invited Dr. King to Memphis. And I met with him, he’s now the minister of the largest church– largest Methodist Church in Los Angeles, I met with him and told him that I had met with Grace. And he flew into Memphis, and he organized a meeting of all of the leading religious people in Memphis, the bishop of the Roman Catholic Church, and the leading rabbi, and the black and the white protestant ministers, and they all met together, and I presented the evidence against the state regarding Grace Walden. And on April 4th this last year, on the tenth anniversary of the murder of Dr. King, these religious leaders issued a statement demanding that Grace Walden be released from that institution.

And this shook the state of Tennessee, because this was the first time there was a group within the establishment of that structure which was making demands on the– related to the King case. And so what they did very quickly is they took Grace Walden out of the mental institution and they locked her up in a boarding house. And they had guards in the boarding house. They had a– the judge signed an order saying it was all right. And they wouldn’t tell me where she was. (Clears throat) So in a sense, the state could say she’s no longer in the state institution, she’s not in our custody, but she’s being cared for in a halfway house. On her own. Made an application for Social Security to pay the guards in the house. Her money, to pay the guards who were keeping her there. (Pause) At that time, when I– all of this was taking place, I thought that someone ought to tell President [Jimmy] Carter, who talks about human rights, is deeply concerned about the denial of human rights in every country in the world, except the United States.

Crowd: (applause)

Lane: We thought that someone ought to tell him that Memphis, Tennessee is a lot closer than Moscow.

Crowd: (Calls)

Lane: And uh– So that message was sent to him, and he said, “I can’t get involved in these local matters.”

Crowd: (response)

Lane: I reminded him if he can get involved in matters regarding justice in Moscow, he ought to be able to do that someplace a little closer. And when you think for a moment of how this lady was treated, locked up there for ten years in this institution, and now even when it was open and out, but the president of the United States would play no part, and his Department of Justice would play no part, and the Attorney General of Tennessee would play no part. And even ten years later, trying to have an innocent person who was totally sane removed from that institution gives you sort of a clue into the operations of the minds of the ruling circles within the United States. I’m just– It tells you–

Crowd: (applause)

Lane:It tells you about their– their deep concern for struggling humanity. And that’s just one way to– to examine it, I mean the fact is, when you see the struggle that was– is taking place throughout the world (emphatically) there is not a fascist regime in the world which would not topple tomorrow morning if the United States withdrew its support. There is not one.

Crowd: (applause)

Lane: And there’s not a single struggle for national liberation, anywhere in the world, where the United States has not supported the oppressors. There is not one. But despite that, despite that we see today in Nicaragua, uh, these last weeks in Nicaragua, where we, the United States Marine Corps, installed [Anastasio] Somoza four decades ago, to the struggles taking place now, and we see in Iran, where the United States with its Central Intelligence Agency installed the Shah, in order to develop our relationship with the oil interests there. So even there the struggles are taking place. So the same morality which we see oppressing the people within the United States is oppressing people throughout the world, but the struggle takes place not only in the United States, but the struggle against that same enemy takes placeall throughout the world, wherever there are people struggling for liberation, as there were now in this case, with the religious people finally coming together in Memphis. And so they put– placed her in this– in this uh, rooming house. And I found out where she was, and I went over to see her. And there were the guards there, and I walked in, and I said, “Grace, uh, when was the last time you had dinner out in a restaurant?” And she said, “Oh, maybe uh, 11 years ago.” And I said, “I’d like to take you out to dinner now, all right?” And she said, “OK.”

And the guards said, “No, you– you– she can’t leave.” And I said, “I’ve already talked to the judge. Judge [Joseph W.] Evans, in charge of the probate court, he said I could have dinner with Grace. So we’re leaving now.” And we walked out to go to dinner, in Memphis, and there was a car waiting for us out there, and we drove away, and the people looked out of the window and wrote down the license plate number, and we went two blocks and changed into another car which was waiting for us–

Crowd: (laughter, applause)

Lane: (Clears throat) –and– and we drove to the airport in Memphis, Tennessee. And I didn’t– I didn’t make any reservations in advance because I didn’t want a record of that, and I started running around to the airlines and said, “Who’s flying to Los Angeles?” because I was living there then, working with Don Freed on a film about the assassination of Dr. King, and I was living out in LA, and I went to various airlines, said, “Who’s flying,” and they said, “Well, there’s a plane leaving in 15 minutes for Dallas, and can switch there for a plane to– plane to Los Angeles.” And that was the– that was the– the way to leave.

It struck me at that point: Memphis, Dallas, Los Angeles. The three major assassination capitals of the United States. And we were going to touch down in all of them. So we went there, and uh, I bought two tickets, and they said, “Well, this plane which is leaving is fully booked.” And uh, in fact it’s coming in filled, and fourteen people are leaving but there are four ahead of you, and there’s another plane which is connecting with it with ten people going on so there aren’t going to be any seats. The next plane was not gonna leave for three hours, and I knew if we were gone for three hours, they would know it wasn’t dinner, and they would be out there by then, we were just sitting there waiting, hoping that two people wouldn’t show up, or something would go wrong, or actually, something would go right, in this case. And we waited, and at that point, CBS television crew somehow had heard about this, and they came out there and they said they were going to film Grace. And I said, “Well, OK, if we get on the plane, film her.” And he said, “No, we, uh, we– we have to film her now, we’re gonna rush it back, and it’ll be on the ten o’clock news. And so you’ll be gone by then.” I said, “That’s great. Because if we’re on this plane, we’ll be gone, I don’t care what’s on the news here. But if we can’t get on the plane, we’ll still be here at 11:30, which is when the next plane leaves. And if it’s on the ten o’clock news, the police and the FBI will come and take her back.” He said, “Well, I’m sorry, but you know uh, we just have to present the news.” And I said, “Well, you can’t, I’m not going to let you film her now, until we know we’re going to get on the plane.” And he said, “Well, I mean, you can’t stop me, can you?” I said, “Yes, I’m gonna break your camera.”

Crowd: (laughter, applause)

Lane: “Well, that’s a uh–” He said, “This is a $12,000 camera and it’s checked out to me.” I said, “This woman’s been in an institution for ten years. Who cares about a twelve thousand dollar camera?” I said, “If you try to film her, I’m gonna break it.” He said, “Well, let’s work out a compromise.” And I said, “That’s fine, I’m always w– uh, willing to do that. What’s your suggestion?” He said, “Well, if she gets on the plane, let me come on the plane and film her there.” I said, “That’s great. That’s fine.” At that point, uh, the plane was almost ready to go, and the woman behind the cap had called us over and said that other plane with the ten passengers connecting to this one has been delayed, and therefore there are seats, so you two can get on now.

Crowd: (applause)

Lane: So uh, (clears throat) we got on the plane, and sat down, and the TV crew came on, and all the times I’ve flown on planes, I’ve never seen a television crew on a plane. And here was Grace looking really terrible, I mean, ten years of misuse by the State of Tennessee. She– Her hair was a mess, and she had no teeth at all, and they never gave her any false teeth. She had absolutely no teeth at all. And she’d been eating terrible food, and been given these drugs and wearing an old dress, she really looked terrible. And here was this television crew filming her. And uh, the pilot came out, and the co-pilot came out, all the stewardesses came over, and said, “Who is she? What’s that all about?” Well, I didn’t want to tell them what the facts were, because I was afraid that some patriotic Tennesee citizen might run out and grab ahold of the wheel and call for the FBI and not let the plane leave, so I said, “Well, her name is uh, Grace Daniels. She’s the heir to the Jack Daniels fortune.”

Crowd: (laughter)

Lane: At that point– At that point Grace turned around and said, “Yes, and when we’re airborne, all the drinks are on me.”

Crowd: (laughter, applause)

Lane: And everybody cheered, and uh, we– we took off, and we landed in Dallas and then, uh, from Dallas I called Don Freed and said, “It’s safe to tell you now we’re on the way back, you’d better have a couple people at the airport, because uh, probably by now the FBI knows, and if anything happens, we’d like to have some friends out there.” And so from the time we left Dallas till the time we got to LA, which was a couple of hours, Don had made some phone calls and there were about uh– Reverend Lawson was there, there were about 200 people at the airport, and a crowd of people from all over, the whole Los Angeles and uh– area, Beverly Hills and Orange County, just about 200 people, about a dozen ministers were there, and a– a lot of other people. And some uh, people who were in past had provided some kind of physical support, some really good people uh, were standing around also. And a couple people we thought were FBI agents, but they were sort of, way in the background and just observing from a distance, and there were two TV crews there. This was Grace Walden’s first television interview. As she got off the plane– and we weren’t expecting, I’d thought that Don would have a few people there, but I didn’t expect this, and everybody applauded and sang when she got off the plane and uh, the cameras moved quickly in on her, and uh, I didn’t know how she could handle this after ten years, but she was marvelous, and a– a reporter said to her, “What do you think of Memphis, Tennessee now?” And she said, “Oh, it’s just a smug little river town, you can’t blame them.” And uh, “What about the murder of Dr. King?” She said, “Well, I saw who did it. And they have the wrong man. And they’ve known they’ve had the wrong man for ten years,” and she said, “now that I’m out, I’m going to do everything I can to try to get that man freed, because he didn’t do it, and they know he didn’t do it.”

So, it was– it was a good– a very good, strong statement, that was on television in Los Angeles. And so she was out, and she’s out now. And there are still problems with her, I mean, you know, ten years of that massive drug abuse program, and uh– but she’s– she’s visited a couple of leading psychiatrists in Los Angeles who say that there is mentally nothing wrong with her, and there never was, said her uh– her mind is clear, but during that ten– she has almost no memories at all during that ten-year period. She remembers things fairly clearly prior to the ten years, and everything since the time that she’s been out, she’s been staying with me, with my family now. She remembers things since that time, but she has almost no memory during that entire ten-year period. She remembers the cats all being killed, and one or two other horrible things like that, but basically cannot remember what took place. So they just– they robbed ten years from her, and from her mind. But she really is uh– she really is one of the true heroes of this terrible period, because she wouldn’t lie. And I think that when they chose this place– this place from which the shot was fired to kill Dr. King, it was chosen for a lot of reasons. And I think one of them was because poor people lived there. Really poor people. And people who were– who could be pushed around. People who were– had tuberculosis, people who drank too much, alcoholics living there. And I think the feeling was, if anybody sees anything, no one will pay any attention to these people. They’re not bank presidents, or important impressive people in society, the people we’ve grown to respect, uh, attorney general like, lawyers like Richard Nixon and uh, John Mitchell and [John] Ehrlichman, and [H.R.] Haldeman– and all those people who we know would never lie, people like that.

Crowd: (laughter)

Lane: Those important people weren’t living there. Just working-class people and people who had– who had failed in a very acquisitive society. And I’m sure that part of the thinking of choosing that place as a place in which the shot would be fired to kill Dr. King, is we can manipulate those people, they’ve no money, they have no power, they’re weak, and we’ll tell them what to do, and they’ll do it, and if they don’t, we’ll offer them some money, and if they don’t take that, we’ll threaten them and they’ll have to do it. That was the analysis. But it didn’t work because there’s always one person. And in this case it was Grace Walden. And so it didn’t work. Their whole strategy went down the drain at that point.

I’d like to talk with you about what else was taking place to lead up to the murder of Dr. King. J. Edgar Hoover, the director of the FBI, had issued an order not too long before then, to a sp– the special agent in charge of the Destroy King Squad– a special group which they had established in the Atlanta office of the FBI called the Destroy King Squad. Now we have all the documents, and all the papers now, finally. all these years later for the first time. And the order was, send a letter to King telling him to commit suicide. And that letter was sent. And it was to be sent from a place in the deep South – that was Hoover’s special order – that an agent was to have the letter typed, they destroyed the typewriter after he prepared the letter, and the agent went down to Tampa, Florida, carrying this letter inside with– inside of another envelope, took a taxi from the Tampa, Florida airport into town, put on his gloves, took the inner envelope out of the outer envelope so they would not leave fingerprints, and mailed the letter, and flew back to Washington, D.C.

And what was the strategy? When Dr. King saw this letter, he would not know that it came from the FBI. He would think it came from some racist d– deep in the South. In fact it was coming from a racist deep in Washington, D.C. and deep in the administration. But this was part of the contrived government program to tear black and white Americans apart, to make Dr. King believe it was a white racist in the South, when in fact, it was a government order. It had no geographic identity, it came from Washington, D.C. And Dr. King got that letter, and he opened it, and he read it, and it said, you– it was 34 days before he was– was to receive the Nobel Peace Prize in Oslo, Norway. And it said you have, in essence, “You have 34 days to kill yourself. Otherwise you’ll be exposed internationally as a sexual pervert. We have tapes and photographs and film,” which had been in fact, developed, manufactured in the FBI laboratories. It’s proof. And Dr. King saw it, and he called in a few people who he knew, Andy Young and a few others, and showed them the letter, and said it had to come from J. Edgar Hoover. Who else would have sent such a crazy letter?

And he said, “Now we have to understand this. In the past, we knew that the Bureau was going to give us no protection in the struggles in the South or the North. But now we have to know something else.” Dr. King said, “Hoover wants me dead. He wants me dead. And so the– the ball game has changed. We have to be very careful, very careful from now on.” So when Dr. King spoke that last night, and made the speech which the press has said was not only prophetic, but was somehow mystically inspired, divinely inspired, where he said, “We as a people will get to the Promised Land, but I may not get there with you, but I’ve been to the mountaintop,” when he made that speech, and he walked off the stage saying, “But I tell you this, I am not fearing any man,” and he walked off the stage. The press made it seem as if somehow divinely he had been inspired. He was reacting to what he knew was Hoover’s program to kill him. And that was the man that he said he was not fearing. Because he had done work that had to be done while he was on the earth. But Hoover did more. Dr. King was under FBI surveillance 24 hours a day, year after year after year after year. Even when he went to Oslo, Norway, FBI agents were on the plane with him. And when he landed to receive the Nobel Peace Prize, the FBI had already bugged all of the hotel rooms in uh, Oslo where he and his family and his friends and associates stayed, and they also tapped all of the phones that they would use in the hotels.

And when he came back to the United States, every hotel, every motel, his church, his home, his office, everyone was bugged by the FBI. Sometimes they would have as many as 25 different FBI agents provide surveillance of Dr. King on a 24-hour-a-day basis, while 15 others monitored him electronically. (Clears throat) There’s as many– an army of 40 FBI agents just looking at Dr. King. One hour before he was killed in Memphis, Tennessee, Hoover gave the order, “Withdraw all surveillance.” One hour. Twenty-five agents disappeared. And the electronic surveillance was pulled off. One hour before. That left just the local police in Memphis to provide protection. And there was a police officer named Ed Reddit, and what had happened is, uh, that a week– ab– about a week before that, on March 28th, Dr. King had been asked to go to Memphis and lead a nonviolent march on behalf of the sanitation workers. Now King was moving in a massive campaign, a Poor Peoples march on Washington, D.C., for April. And the whole idea was to get hundreds of people, thousands of people, maybe tens of thousands, maybe hundreds of thousands eventually, of a rainbow of Americans, coming to Wa– all poor people– the whites from Appalachia, blacks and brown and yellow and red from all over America, all poor people. And to set up tents right there in Washington, D.C. Right in front of the three House of Representative office buildings, and right in front of the two United States Senate office buildings, and remain there until something was done to bring about a change in the economic structure which required so many people to be poor, so many people to go without dinner at night, go to bed hungry at night. And required what we see in the press today, that the illiteracy rate is rising in the United States, while illiteracy has been abolished in what we refer to as under-developing countries. It’s not the world, it’s growing within the United States.

And Dr. King had moved on from the struggle of just civil rights and was talking about economic justice and bringing about some sound structural changes in the economic structure of the United States. That’s what he was doing when he was killed. And in the middle of all this, he was invited to go to Memphis and lead a nonviolent march on behalf of the sanitation workers, and some of his aides said, “Oh, don’t go. Keep your eye on the national program. Don’t be distracted for a few days in Memphis.” And he reminded them of the necessity of standing with the least of these, the most oppressed of these. And he flew off. You remember that campaign in Memphis, it was not for higher wages, it was for the dignity of labor. Those black sanitation workers marched with signs which didn’t ask for higher wages, but asked for better conditions. The signs said, “I am a man.” That was the campaign, and that was– it was impossible for Dr. King to refuse that request. He went there, and they marched. And Reverend Lawson organized and led that march. And this is what he told me. As they marched down, a group of young black people– there was a group there called the Invaders, a black militant youth group, wore black jackets, something like the Black Panther Party– group of young black people started smashing windows and hurling insults at Dr. King. And Reverend Lawson looked up and said, “Those guys are dressed like the Invaders, but they are not the Invaders.” Turns out they were working for the Federal Bureau of Investigation. And they turned a nonviolent march into a violent demonstration. And when the windows were being broken, things were being stolen from the stores in the black community, Reverend Lawson said to Dr. King, “Let’s turn the march around.” Dr. King said, “I’m not afraid.” And Lawson looked up ahead, and he saw in the next block the police were there with their weapons, and people were looking out of windows. And that was the next block, and he had the feeling that– he said the police weren’t coming and stopping the looting. They were taking no action at all. And he had the feeling that they wanted Dr. King to walk one more block, and who knows what would’ve happened there? And if Dr. King was killed in a struggle one more block later, it always could’ve been said that this young, black militant group had started the riot, and Dr. King was killed as a result of the riot with the young, black activists that started it. Reverend Lawson said, “No, it’s not our march anymore. Let’s turn it around.” And Dr. King was reluctant, but the group of people pushed him in a car, and they drove him to a Holiday Inn Rivermont, which is a large building outside of the downtown area, which provides excellent security. No buildings anywhere near it, and you go into a central entrance and when you’re in there, you go to your room, and there’s no way anybody can shoot you from the outside. And he went there, take him there.

That same day, Hoover – we now have the memo – Hoover ordered the special agent in charge of the Memphis office of the FBI to make sure that King came back to Memphis and that he stayed in the Lorraine Motel, because he had reservations for the Holiday Inn Rivermont. What is it about the Lorraine Motel? It’s built like a shooting gallery! There’s no way to provide any security. Because there’s no central entrance, you go up to the balcony, and you walk right down in that long balcony until you get to your room, and across the street there are bushes and trees, and a series of buildings, including that rooming house where Grace Walden stayed with windows looking out over the area. And half a block away, there’s wa– a fire station, Fire Station 2, which overlooks the area. Hoover’s memo to Robert Jensen, the special agent in charge of the FBI in Memphis said, “Send out a statement to our friends in the news media,” that’s the two newspapers in Memphis, and the radio and television stations. “Embarrass King into checking into the Lorraine Motel. Make sure he does not stay at the Holiday Inn Rivermont.” And the FBI prepared a statement, which, it said at the bottom, “not to be attributed to the Bureau,” and they gave it to their friends in the news media in Memphis. The free press. In Memphis. That’s how it functioned then, that’s how it functions now. And this– they even wrote the headline, headline says “Do As I Say, Says King, Not As I Do” and then the statement went on to say, “King is coming back here to Memphis, and he’s telling all of the Negroes, ‘boycott white-owned establishments.’ But what is he doing himself? He’s staying in the posh white-owned Holiday Inn Rivermont. Why doesn’t he stay in the Lorraine Motel, owned by Negroes, a perfectly respectable place.” And that was published all over Memphis, and some of Dr. King’s aides, Andy Young particularly, and others said, it’ll be embarrassing if you stay at the Holiday Inn, and they moved his reservations to the Lorraine Motel. And he was on that balcony when he was shot to death.

So, people around Dr. King asked that there be police protection. And so they had assigned in the past fourteen police officers. Now there were death threats, and they reduced the squad to two. Two police officers. Ed Reddit, a black officer, who was in charge of the operation, and another man named Patrolman Richman. Those were the only two. And this was the plan they worked out. Reddit said, “We’ll stay over here in the Fire Station, right across the street. If anything happens,” he said to Richman, “you’ll run in with your walkie talkie. There are six vehicles on the perimeter, each with two officers in them. Seal off the area, I’ll run down to South Main Street and see if I see anything happening there.”

Well, if that plan had been in effect, we wouldn’t be talking ten years later about wondering who killed Dr. King. What happened was, whoever killed Dr. King ran out in the street, and put his rifle down there at South Main Street, and Ed Reddit would’ve been there with his pistol drawn, and would’ve been able to stop the killer at that point.

Hours before, a man named Frank Holloman, the only man ever to be the director of fire and police in Memphis at the same time, had ordered the only two black firemen at Fire Station 2 to be dispersed to other fire stations many miles away. The only two black firemen there, both of whom were militant supporters of Dr. King. They were sent to locations where they were surplus employees, had nothing to do, and yet they couldn’t even get the engines out without them, that fire station, so if there had been a fire there, they could not’ve taken them out because one company required five, the other company required four, there were on two separate companies, and they could not even get the engines out that day. There was just a panic to get them out of there. And now, two hours before Dr. King was killed, Holloman sent word to Ed Reddit, to the chief of domestic intelligence for the Memphis police department, “I want Reddit in my office at once.” So Reddit was taken to his office. Reddit said, “I’m supposed to be in charge of security.” He said, “Well, I know that. But this man here is from the United States Secret Service. He says there’s a death threat out against you. So I’m sending you home under police control. And you’re to remain home.” He said, “Well, look, I mean, he’s going to be leaving there soon. Coming out on that balcony. Look, he’s going to Billie Kyle’s house, a black minister in Memphis. Let me make sure he just gets there, then I’ll feel safe, he’ll be in the community, and be OK.” And the answer is, “No. I’m sending you home.”

And he said, “Well, I don’t– I don’t want to be home. I mean, if there really is a death threat against me, and I don’t know how that could be, but if there’s a death threat against me, I don’t want to be with my family, for someone to throw a bomb and kill us all. I’d rather be out on the street, and take my chances.” He said, “Well, it’s not what you want. I’m ordering you home.”

They sent him home with two police officers. They’re sitting there in the car in front of his house. And he said, “You know, would you’d just let me go back there to make sure that King gets out of there OK?” And the answer was “No.” He said, “Well, all right, where are you guys going to be staked out?” And the officer in charge said, “No, we’re going into the house with you.” He said, “Well, if you’re providing protection for me, you have to be out on the street, staking out the house.” And the answer was, “No, we’re going to be watching you.” So then he knew that was the idea was to keep him in the house, not to protect him, but to keep him there. They had the radio on, playing music in the background, and they interrupted the program to announce at that moment that Dr. King had just been shot.

That left only one police officer, Richman, stationary police officer and six patrol cars. Now we get to the official statement of the Memphis District Attorney General [District Attorney], Phil Canale. This is his explanation, I’m quoting him now. (Clears throat) “At five minutes to six” – I add parenthetically, which was six minutes before Dr. King was killed – “At five minutes to six,” he said, “all of the police cars, all of the men in the police cars drove to the Fire Station to use the bathroom facility. All twelve men in all six police cars. So that’s why there was no perimeter– perimeter at the time Dr. King was killed.” He said, “But there’s nothing surprising about that, they’d been out in those cars since a quarter to eight in the morning, and at five minutes to six, they all had to go to the bathroom at the same time.” Now that’s a well-trained police force. And they were there in the urinal when the shot was fired, and there was patrolman Richman with his walkie-talkie, prepared to seal off the area, but there was no one to talk to. They were all in the bathroom.

When you put this all together, what do you discover? You find out that Mr. Hoover wanted Dr. King dead. He said it. Find out that the– the FBI surveillance of Dr. King ended just before he was killed. And then the local police and fire department was raided so that the witnesses were removed, the black witnesses, and so security was removed.

Now, the last thing is to find out who Frank Holloman is, who did this. He’d just arrived on the scene, just a couple of weeks before and became the director of fire and police. He was responsible for stripping away the witnesses, and responsible for stripping away the security. Who was he? He had just retired after 25 years as a chief executive in the Federal Bureau of Investigation. His last job for – thank you – his last job for eight years had been as chief inspector in charge of J. Edgar Hoover’s office, personal office, person in charge of that office. And you put it all together, it certainly looks to me as if the FBI has to be considered to be the prime suspects in the murder–

Crowd: (murmurs)

Lane: Yeah. Now, you add to that the statement–

Crowd: (applause)

Lane: (Clears throat) You add to that the statement from Arthur Murtaugh, who had been with the FBI for 20 years and nine months, the senior member of the group of the intelligence squad in Memphis called the Destroy King Squad. In an interview which I had with him not too long ago, this is what he told me.

He said, “I– Our job” he said, “was to destroy Martin Luther King and everyone around him.” He said, “Even after King was killed, we sent a memo up to Hoover and said, ‘Should we disband now that he’s dead?’ And Hoover’s answer was, ‘No. Now destroy his memory. Because the Congress may make his birthday a national holiday. Destroy his memory. Brief every member of Congress, let them know what a scoundrel he was.’” And so the squad went on. Then Andy Young decided to run for Congress. And Murtaugh was ordered to break in– through his informants work in the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, have them break into the office of the SCLC, and steal letterheads of the SCLC stationery and steal samples of Andy Young’s handwriting. The FBI laboratory was going to write love letters, signed by Andy Young, to the wife of every minister in Atlanta for the purpose of disrupting the campaign. Now why Hoover would imagine that Andy Young would’ve done that on the official stationery of the SCLC is a little difficult to understand, but it would’ve caused some mischief, and then Murtaugh refused to do it, but another agent did it. And those letters were sent out.

This is what Murtaugh told me. I said, (Clears throat) “Do you remember April 4th?” He said, “Oh, yes. I was on the ninth floor of the Federal Building in Atlanta. We were checking out that day, it’s a block-long building, with our salmon-colored cards. And we were checking out, and with me,” he said, “was the second in charge of the Destroy King Squad, the assistant supervisor of the Destroy King Squad. And as we were checking out, the radio announced that Dr. King had been shot.” And he said– this man, my supervisor, said, ‘I hope the son-of-a-bitch dies.’” The FBI. A few minutes later they announced that Dr. King had died. Murtaugh, an FBI agent loyal to the Bureau for 20 years and nine months, said, “When it was announced on the radio that Dr. King had died, this man, this high official in the FBI of the Destroy King’s life, literally left his feet in a leap for joy.” The code name which the FBI had assigned to Dr. King was Zorro – Zorro’s coming here, Zorro’s going there – and Dr.– and Mr. Murtaugh said, this official of the FBI left his feet in a leap for joy, slapped his hands together, and said, “We got Zorro! Zorro’s dead.”

Later, as 50 American cities went up in flames, as blacks throughout the country were saying to the white power structure, we’d like some information about the murder of Dr. King, and then it was a hundred cities. The attorney general of the United States looked out of those– window, of the Department of Justice building in Washington, and couldn’t even see the Capitol because of the smoke inundating the city. And he realized something had to be done. “There was,” he said, “to be a full investigation of the murder.” And so he called J. Edgar Hoover, and asked him to look into it. Hoover called the Special Agent in Charge of the Atlanta office of the FBI and gave him full authority to conduct the investigation. And he turned it over to the Destroy King Squad. And those who celebrated Dr. King’s murder conducted the only federal investigation into that assassination.

And despite this, the American news media supports the official version, just as they support the official version of the murder of President Kennedy. New York Times, Time Magazine, Newsweek, U.S. News & World Report, The L.A. Times, CBS, NBC, ABC, there’s not a single portion of the American news media which has not editorially endorsed the Warren Commission Report, and what does the Gallup Poll taken last January show? Eighty-two percent of the American people say they think the Warren Report’s a lie, and are convinced there was a conspiracy to kill President Kennedy, and about the same number are convinced it was a conspiracy to kill Dr. Martin Luther King. And yet the news media goes on as if the American people don’t exist, as if those opinions don’t exist, and continues to offer additional support for their theory on the government’s theory of the “lone assassin” involved.

When James Earl Ray testified recently before the Congress, he began by revealing something which was just not known anywhere in America. And that is that when Dr. King was – we now have all of the FBI documents proving this – when Dr. King was shot, the first man on the scene who ran up to the balcony and started giving him mouth-to-mouth resuscitation, the worst thing you can do when a man is bleeding to death, started moving him around, was a man named Merrell McCullough, dressed like a Black Panther, like a Invader or a Black Panther. He was the man who led the riot on March 28th, which required Dr. King to come back to the city. You’ve all seen that picture of everybody pointing from the balcony, up there, Andy Young, and Jesse Jackson and the others? You look at that picture– and Ralph Abernathy– you look at that picture closely, there’s someone kneeling over Dr. King. He’s not pointing, he’s kneeling over Dr. King. That’s Merrell McCullough. That’s the man in that world-famous picture published in The New York Times and newspapers all around the world, never identifying that man. Merrell McCullough his name is. The first person to reach Dr. King. He’s not pointing. I’ll tell you why. ‘Cause he pointed originally. He said, “It’s from that window.” And then the rest of them took up the point, and then he was no longer pointing.

Who is he? Everybody– Ralph Abernathy, when I saw him in Washington, I showed him the picture, I said, “Who is that?” He said, “Well, I don’t know who that is.” Jesse Jackson didn’t know. Andy Young didn’t know who that man was on the balcony with them. He’s a full-time Memphis Police employee assigned to infiltrate the Invaders, and according to documents we now have for the first time, at the same time, a special agent of the Federal Bureau of Investigation. And he was the first person to reach Dr. King, and he established the point of origin of the bullet. And ten years later, that was not known until we got the documents, and James Earl Ray said that, and not one newspaper in America printed it. Not one newspaper in the entire country printed it. And so the struggle, of course, for truth and morality still goes on and it’s a– a struggle which we are, I can’t report that we have won, or that there are signs that we are on the verge of winning, but the struggle goes on.

I’d like to tell you about the last day– I know when Don Freed came here, he was very happy to come here and very excited about coming here, but heartbroken that he was leaving on the last day of James Earl Ray’s testimony, and so, [I’ll] bring you up to date on what he didn’t see, but what happened just after he left Washington. James has been attacked regularly by the members of the Select Committee when they asked him, “Where were you on March 27th? Where were you? What hotel did you stay at? Where did you drive from here to?” And I– I tried to point out to the members of the committee that if I had asked any of them where they were one week ago for dinner, they probably would have a great difficulty trying to remember where it was. They’re asking Ray where he was ten years ago. What cities, what motel, what time of the morning did you leave? And they kept on attacking him in this uh, system of cross-examination. It was the old McCarthy– old McCarthyism come back to Washington, D.C., in terms of their attack on Ray. And he was worn down. He was tired. After all, this is a man who had been kept in solitary confinement for five years, and in prison in Tennessee for ten years. Now all of a sudden, every day, a series of very difficult questions, he’d been kept in solitary confinement, even outside of Washington, D.C., and beaten up the first day before he testified, and lights focused on him 24 hours, that first day. He tried, and it’s– but he– and he did the best he could. And I thought he was credible, but in terms of the terrible cross-examination, picking at each detail, he was getting weary, and Friday morning when I went in to see him, just before he was to testify, he said, “I don’t think I can take any more of this. I’m just too exhausted.” And I said, “What do you want to do?” He said, “What I want to do? I don’t– I don’t want to testify anymore.” He said, “I know– I don’t even– I– I know you probably don’t like that, but I’ve written out a statement, I want to read the statement, and just go back to my prison in Tennessee and give up the fight.” He said, “You don’t like that, do you?” I said, “Well, James, I mean, you’re the client, and whatever you say goes. If you want my opinion, I’ll give it to you.” He said, “Well, yeah.” I said, “Well, let me hear the statement.” It was a very good statement that he had written. And I said, uh, “You know– we’ve been asking all along for– after Ray was arrested, he wrote down, oh, about a 20,000-word statement of every detail, maps, remembering where he was, and the Committee had that. But he didn’t– he– Ray didn’t have it. And he– we kept on asking for that document, I kept on saying, if he has that, maybe he can give you specific information. But it doesn’t make any sense to uh, to demand that he tell you from his memory. I said, “If you like I can go in there and demand that. And if they don’t give you it, well, say, we’re gonna walk out, ‘cause it’s unfair.” He said, “OK.” So we went in and we made a big demand, and they– it was all broadcast on public television, and public radio throughout the country– and they were a little embarrassed, and they said OK, they said they would give him the document. Then they started asking him a series of questions after he got the document. At twelve-thirty, just before we broke for lunch, they announced that they had a statement, the Select Committee of Congress had just interviewed on August 4th, a very important, distinguished British police officer, a retired chief inspector of the metropolitan police in London, and he had said that Ray confessed the killing to him. And they were going to present that statement and question James about that. And they said the man’s name is Anthony Alexander [Alexander Anthony] Eist, and I demanded the statement they gave, it’s a 21-page statement, and we broke for lunch, and then we had an opportunity to read the statement.

Well, I can say that I actually like James Earl Ray a lot. And uh, I know he’s not what the media– the media have– has portrayed him as a southern racist, right? A redneck. First of all, he’s from Illinois, he’s not from the deep South, although there are racists in Illinois, I think he’s not one of them. And the way they’ve done this is by the use of key people in the intelligence organizations. And the– the method which has been used in order to destroy Dr. King, and the methods which had been used to utilize the news media, is very similar to the methods that have been used, probably by the same people, in an effort to destroy Peoples Temple. And it’s just the same people, and it’s just the same approach–

Crowd: (response)

Lane: –and it’s their use of the news media. There’s a man named George McMillan, he’s key to this case. George McMillan has published material on behalf of the Central Intelligence Agency and the FBI over the years. In fact, when Lee Harvey Oswald was in Moscow, his wife [Priscilla Johnson McMillan]– George McMillan’s wife interviewed her on behalf of the Central Intelligence Agency and the State Department. We have the documents which show that. And George McMillan was there when his wife went back to Moscow, interviewed Stalin’s daughter, Svetlana Stalin. That was one of the great coups by the CIA. They brought her to the United States. And where did she stay? At the home of George McMillan and his wife, a CIA safehouse. Their home was used as a CIA safehouse. He’s totally intelligence. But he wrote a book, the bio– the biography of James Earl Ray, called The Making of an Assassin. And because I loved Dr. King, and I marched with Dr. King, and I went to jail on more than one occasion with Dr. King, in Mississippi and Alabama, in Maryland, I was disturbed by one statement in that book.

This is what it said, page 106 of McMillan’s book: He said, “Every day when James Earl Ray was in the penitentiary in– in Jefferson City, Missouri in 1963 and 1964, every day James Earl Ray looked in his cell block up at the television set and he saw Dr. King on that set. And every day he said, when he heard Dr. King talk about the needs for blacks to suffer, but one day there would be freedom for everyone in America, as he did that,” according to this book, “Ray grabbed the jail bar cell, and his knuckles turned white, the blood drained from his face. He began to mutter and mumble, ‘Somebody’s gotta get him. Somebody’s gotta kill him.’ And he did that every single day in 1963 and 1964.” Well, I knew McMillan was an intelligence writer, yet that was a matter of concern to me. And the first day I met James Earl Ray just about two years ago, I brought that book in, and I read that passage to him. And very quietly, he laughed. And I said, “Is that funny?” And he said, “Under the circumstances, it’s very funny.” I said, “What are the circumstances?” He said, “There were no television sets in the entire institution the whole time I was there.” And I said, “Well, that’s something I can check out.” He said, “Yeah, check it out.”

So I met with the associate warden of the Missouri Penitentiary. Question is were there television sets there in 1963 and 1964? In fact Ray escaped in April 1967 and never got back to that prison after that. And this is what the warden said. “The first time we ever had television sets in the Missouri Penitentiary was in January 1970.” There never was a set there when Ray was there. The whole story’s made up. A total fabrication. Well, who do you suppose Public Broadcasting Television had narrating the entire hearing? Explaining to the American people what was taking place? George McMillan. The intelligence author.

Well, when I first met Ray and discussed this with him, I found that he was a– he’s very bright, he’s articulate. I asked if he was a racist, because the charge had been made, and he said, “Well, it’s hard to know what a racist is.” This is James Earl Ray’s answer. He said, “It’s hard to know what a racist is.” He said, “I live in a racist society.” He said, “I think everybody’s a racist here.” He said, “But if you mean a sp– anything special about that,” he said, “I think a racist is someone who exploits for financial gain, someone else because of his race.” He says, “I’ve never exploited anybody in my life, although many of the people in the news media who say I’m a racist in fact are themselves part of the exploiting system.” As I thought that was an interesting answer for a man who has been pictured by the news media as someone very different from what he really is.

But he’s a– he’s a reserved person. And all the time that I talked to him, and the various things that I did over the years, he never once said “Thank you.” He says “Thank you” very, very cautiously. It took me six months, I think, of talking before he felt he could trust me. And then he did, and started giving me information, which I think has been helpful, and I’m trying to get a trial for him, for the murder.

So that’s– that was one thing that struck me. And I said to him on one occasion, “Look, you have no money at all here, not a penny. Would you like me to put some money in your account?” He said, “No.” I said, “Why?” He said, “Well, you know, I don’t smoke. And you don’t need money in prison, unless– except for cigarettes.” I said, “How about candy?” He said, “Candy rots your teeth, I don’t eat candy, either.” I said, “How about magazines and newspapers?” and he said, “Magazines and newspapers rot your mind, and anyway,” uh, he said, “people send me clippings about the case from all over. And I get– I can get newspapers. I don’t need any money at all.”

It was only two years later when I arranged for Jim Lawson and others to come in and meet with him, then I told him that I had done that, he said, “Well, thank you.” First time he ever said, “Thank you.” And then Reverend Lawson, Jesse Jackson, other people came in to see him, and when the meeting was over, James stood up, and shook hands with each of them and said, “Thank you.” He didn’t say thank you to me. After all he had said it two weeks before on the phone, so that was my quota. And (unintelligible word) I know, in the two years I’ve known, that’s the only three times I’ve ever heard him say, “Thank you.” That total of three times.

Now we read the statement of Mr. Eist, who says that James Earl Ray was there in prison, in England, when he was picked up and he made a complete confession. Ray was aware that something like that might be said. The first day he was arrested in England, he sent a letter to J. Edgar Hoover, and said, “I know you’re going to be sending police officers in here, and I know you’re going to be sending crooks in here, to talk with me. I’m not going to tell anybody anything. I’m not even telling anybody my name. So if anybody comes forward now and says I made a confession or admission in prison, which I know is a system you always use, it’s a lie, I’m not– and I’m putting you on notice in advance, I’m not talking to anybody about anything.”

Now we see Mr. Eist’s statement, this retired, distinguished chief inspector of the British Police force. It begins by saying, “The first day I met Ray, they passed the food to him through the bars. And I noticed they didn’t give him proper utensils to eat with. So he said, “I asked them, ‘Give him the utensils.’ And they said, ‘No. We’re not going to give him any knife or anything like that.’” He said, “James Earl Ray turned to me and said, ‘Chief Inspector, I wanted to thank you profusely for the efforts on my behalf, and although they were unsuccessful, I want to really thank you for what you’ve done in trying to get me utensils.’” Now, to a lot of people that doesn’t mean anything. To me, it’s a total– it means that the whole story’s a lie. Right? I know James well enough to know that’s impossible. The next thing that he says is that, “We began to talk, and Ray asked me if I could get him some magazines about yachting.” (Pause) Small-time crook from the central plains of Illinois has decided he needs magazines about yachting. Charged with the murder of Dr. King, may be about to be executed, and all he’s interested in is a magazine about yachting. Well, I knew there was nothing in the statement which made any sense, but then he went on to say that Ray confessed to killing Dr. King and told why he did it, he wanted publicity, he wanted the money, and on and on and on. That kind of story. And it ended up by saying, he was asked in the statement why he decided to wait, and he waited ten years. Chief Inspector: “Why was he coming forward now?” And he said, “An American couple came,” he now is a retired police officer, he owns a bar in Cambridge, England. And he said a– that an American couple came in the other day, and asked for a– a drink, and then told me that I had very important information, and I should tell the FBI, and so I decided to do it. But he had not told the American couple what information he had. So how they knew that we don’t know, about this confession. In any event, he said he called the FBI, they asked him what the name of the couple was and he said he didn’t want to disclose the name of the couple. OK. So this story seemed to me to be a total fraud, but I knew that it was going to go over very big with George McMillan narrating on it, he was– like, now, here’s the absolute proof. And the person who started questioning James Earl Ray about it was a man named Sam Devine. Sam Devine is a member of Congress, on the committee, had for many years been a special agent of the FBI. And after that, before he was elected to Congress, he was in the State of Ohio legislature, he was the chairman of the Unamerican Activities Committee for the State Legislature of Ohio. And that was the man who’s gonna ask the questions. Well, we were about to go out there and get the– and deal with this (hushed tone) bombshell of evidence against James, and a black marshal walked up to me, and gave me a note that said, “Please call Jonathan Goldberg, and he– an English barrister, now in Los Angeles. He has information about Eist.” And this was two minutes to two. And I picked, uh, I said, “Marshal, can I use your phone?” They said, “Yes,” and I called him, and he s– as I said, he’s a British barrister, and he said, “Eist is the single most corrupt police official in the modern history of England. He’s not an honorably retired official, as the Congress says. When he was indicted for jewel robbery, perversion of justice, and corruption, he was forced to resign in disgrace.” He said, “I can give you a great deal of information.” At that time, the marshals came and took James Earl Ray out before the committee, and I couldn’t leave him there alone with the, the savage beasts, and so I said to Mr. Goldberg, “Can I call you back in five minutes?” He said, “OK, I’ll wait five minutes.” And I hung up, and I went out there into the room, and they said, “We’re going to now read the entire statement.” And we had a discussion about that. And after about ten minutes, this thing settled down, we went to some procedural things, and they started to read the entire statement into the record, telling the American people this was a retired, distinguished British officer, why would a man like that lie? And as– as they started to read it, I said, “I wonder if I can be excused while you’re reading the statement, and I’ll be back in a few minutes. I have some pressing business to take care of.” And they said, “That’s all right.” So I left the room.

Meantime, in Los Angeles, where Jonathan Goldberg is, he flew to America to a– attend the American Bar Association convention, and then stayed on and was traveling a little bit on vacation. He was traveling with his cousin, who’s a British television actress, Aviva her name is, and she kept on saying, “Well, let’s go out to lunch. He’s not going to call.” And they’d waited about ten minutes, and I hadn’t called. And so, thinking I wouldn’t call, they left the room, and went into the car, and was starting to drive off, and he put the radio on, and he heard me ask to be excused for pressing business. He said, “He’s gonna call me!!” they drove right back to the house, ran in toward the house, and the– I, at that point, was dialing in a phone booth down the hall from the Congressional Committee, and it started to ring, and there was no answer. What had happened is, they discovered they had not taken the house keys with them, this house they were staying at, and it was locked. They couldn’t get in. And I was ringing for more information, at which point Aviva tried to get in through the doggie door. The bottom of the door. She got her head in there, and her arm in there, and she got stuck, and she couldn’t get in, and she couldn’t get out. She could reach up and move the handle on the door, but there was a chain above it to the wall, and she couldn’t reach that. And I rang 12 times and hung up. And they were trying desperately to get in, but I thought maybe I’d got a wrong number, that happens about half the time anyway. So I– So I decided I’d try again. By now they had pulled Aviva out of the doggie door, and I was calling back, and they started to go back to the car, they heard it, and Jonathan Goldberg came running full speed, and smashed the door with his shoulder.

Crowd: (laughter)

Lane: The door was very solid, did not collapse. However, it was chained to the wall and the wall collapsed.

Crowd: (laughter)

Lane: He picked his way through the rubble, and I just– and the phone had rung about ten times, and he picked up the phone and with great British understatement, he says “Mr. Lane, I’m sorry about the delay, we had a little bit of difficulty here.” It was not till a week later that I got the whole story, but then he told me everything that I had to know about Eist. Incredible amount of information. And I went back into the hearing room, and they finished reading the statement, and were about to ask James Earl Ray if it were true. And he said, “Well, this of course is the single most damaging thing that’s ever been said, but it is all untrue.” And then I said, “I want to make a report to the Committee about Mr. Eist, your uh, police official who you say has been retired.” And they rapped the gavel and said, “You’re not allowed to make any statements here. You’re just allowed– you’re not allowed to confront your accuser. Not allowed to make any statements. You cannot call your own witnesses. You can only answer their questions.” And my job is only to whisper to James Earl Ray’s ear, and give him advice, period. That’s what they ruled.

And I said, “Well, whether I’m allowed to make any statements here, is really not the question. This is what I’m going to tell you, and the American people who are listening.” And he kept on rapping the gavel, and I kept on, in a very loud and aggressive fashion, I just– I told them everything that I knew about Eist. And that’s the most incredible series of things–

I’ll tell you what I learned. I learned that Eist, there is– There are very serious allegations that Eist was involved with organized crime– this is the chief inspector– of the Hatten Gardens district of London, that’s the jewel, the diamond jewel section of London. He was involved, and he kept on going up the ladder, this the way he went up the ladder, it’s alleged by uh, people who’ve uh– lawyers and others who (unintelligible word) out this information. Eist entered into partnership with a man who was involved in organized crime. And Eist would know where the jewels were being moved, because he was the chief inspector for the area. And when the jewels would be moved, he would tell his partner, his partner would hire two thugs, they’d hit the sales– the man who was moving the jewels, over the head, steal the jewels, sell them, and then Eist and his partner would share the money. And then Eist would go arrest the two thugs! He solved every case! It wasn’t hard. He had set up every case. So he was able to solve all these cases, and when the man– sometimes they made a confession, and said, OK, and gave the name of his partner in organized crime, as the man who hired ‘em, and he’d al– would always leave that out of the confession. It’s alleged that many of the jewel robberies through the 1960s and 1970s were all done by this police officer, and when the first case broke, he was indicted and tried. At the trial, the question came up. Remember the– the magazine on yachting James wanted? In 1967, the year before Eist met James Earl Ray, he had bought a yacht. He was interested in yachting, not James. He’d bought a yacht and a mansion. And at the trial, the prosecuting attorney, the Crown, said that, “You know, where could you have gotten the money to buy a yacht and a mansion? We put it to you, you could not have been, based upon your salary.” And he said, “No, it wasn’t based upon my salary. My mother was a millionaire, and she left me a hundred thousand dollars.” At which point his brother came forward, and said, “Mother was a millionaire? Mother was on welfare her whole life!”

Crowd: (laughter)

Lane: And he said, “Well, that’s what she wanted you to think, because she always liked me best. And she wanted to leave all the money to me. And so she had a hundred thousand dollars under her mattress, and she said, when I– she was to die, I was just to roll her over, take the hundred thousand dollars and buy a yacht and a mansion, and so in meeting Mom’s last wish, that’s what I did.” (unintelligible) That’s where the yachting magazine came from. That was on his mind, he’d just bought a yacht, a little while before. Anyway, a lot of this was finally presented to the American people, and at that point the committee of Congress– for the first time in years, a committee of Congress was frightened by what the American people saw that they had done, and although they said that they had days more of questioning to ask James Earl Ray, days more of cross-examination, they collapsed. They quit. They said, “We’re going to put this off until November, and Mr. Ray’s finished now.” Nobody wanted to ask him any more questions.

And I think what’s really important to remember about this– ‘cause this happens an awful lot. That you think you’re getting tired. And you think the enemy’s all that powerful, and they’re not weak. And you think that, I don’t know if I can hold on much longer in the struggle. (pointedly) Sometimes they’re weaker than they seem. Sometimes they can barely hold on. And that– that morning, James didn’t want to go out there. He was too beaten. But before the day was over, the committee had retired, had run, from James Earl Ray and from the truth, which was then being told to the American people. And that reminded me of the time when I used to be a member of the New York State Legislature. And as a member of the State Legislature, I was a Freedom Rider. Remember that way back in 1961? The Freedom Rides, throughout the South of the United States, and a lot of us went from various– one city to another, and I was arrested in Jackson, Mississippi as a Freedom Rider, I was the only public official in the country ever to have been arrested at that time. And Congress of Racial Equality, CORE, was coordinating a lot of the activity. I was arrested with Percy Sutton, who was then the president of the NAACP from Manhattan, and uh, we went back, we were charged with whatever the series of crimes were, sitting in a waiting room, just a few years ago in America, 1961. And their waiting room in Jackson, Mississippi, at the airport, two of us sitting next to each other – he’s black, I’m not – sitting next to each other. And that was a crime. That was a crime. That was just a few years ago.

And uh, then, 350 people were finally arrested in the whole campaign. And the Congress of Racial Equality said, “OK, when we go back down to the South now, we’re gonna have to obey the local ordinances. Those ordinances which said, bathroom, colored men, white men, colored women, white women.” In other words, we were not to violate any of the local laws. And Percy and I said, “Well, that’s what we went down there for in the first place! To violate them.” And they said, “Yes, but the bail’s been put up, we’re tired, we’ve run out of money, we’ve run out of lawyers, we’ve run out of bail, and we just– if we do it again, if everybody gets arrested all over again, instead of 350 cases, we’ll have 700 cases.” And some of us took the position, “You have to confront them. You cannot take it on this struggle, and then in the middle, say, ‘No, we don’t have enough money to go on with it.’” And so we went down there, Percy and I were the first two to go down there. And we said, “We’re going to go first. And we’re going to violate all the local ordinances. (excitedly) But we couldn’t! Do you know why?? Because they had painted out “colored” and “white”! Because the State of Mississippi was even more tired than we were, and more tired than CORE was. And they changed all of the regulations before we got there.

Crowd: (applause)

Lane: I just want to close by telling you that uh, this has been an absolutely rare experience. I guess you hear that from everybody who comes here, but that let me just join with the chorus of them, of uh, first of all, coming to this portion of the world. And of course Don had– I was more prepared than most people who come here, I think, for seeing what is here, because Don Freed, with whom I’ve worked for many years, had been here just a little while before. But no matter wha– and you know, he’s relatively eloquent, wouldn’t you say. And so he described it in glowing detail, but still there’s uh– there’s no way to describe it, you have to come and see. But, uh, you know, to get on that train in Georgetown, and to– it’s– it’s going back to the nineteenth century in terms of the modes of–

Jones: (breathes heavily into mike)

Lane: –the mode of transportation went back as a century earlier, (unintelligible word), and the heritage of uh, British Imperialism, of course, is to move back every country which was a colony, at least uh, one century beyond where it should be at present time. But you go there, and you’re in the nineteenth century, till you stop right down there, and then you come on into here, and you don’t just come up to the twentieth century. You’re in the future all of a sudden. And so it’s a–

Jones: (chuckles into mike)

Lane: –it’s a big move.

Crowd: (sustained applause)

Lane: And either– either this is the future, or there won’t be any.

Crowd: (applause)

Jones: (softly) That’s so true, that’s so true.

Lane: In a sense, this is– this is the way it used to be back in the United States before it was the United States.

Jones: Yeah.

Lane: Forty thousand years ago. And thirty thousand years ago. And you talk to the Indian people there now, I talked to an old chief at– at Wounded Knee, who’d come in to support the Indian struggling there in South Dakota, and he said, “You know, this is the– the history of– of this whole country.” He said, “The first forty thousand years, it was just fine. It’s the last 500 years which have been pretty bad.” Since you– since you all arrived here, and uh– but– but what you saw back there, if we could go back that long ago, ten thousand, fifteen, twenty thousand years ago, is in a sense what we see here now. People living together, in a communal way, with respect for each other, living in a harmony with each other and in harmony with nature. And not polluting,not destroying, but living together, in harmony with each other and with– with the earth, and either that is what the rest of the world will learn or there will be no future. You know what, I was in Los Angeles, uh, a young woman had been attacked and murdered just uh, outside of Los Angeles. And [Thomas] Noguchi, the coroner examined her and said, “She was a stranger to our city. She’d been here less than two weeks. Her lungs were still pink.” That’s how they knew she didn’t come from Los Angeles. Because her lungs were the way they were supposed to be. She was in Los Angeles a little– just– you don’t have to smoke cigarettes, you just have to breathe the air, in Los Angeles. And while we were there, there was a young girl at our house, and there were days when they actually cancelled school because of the pollution in the air. And other days when they had school, but they cancelled all gymnastics outside, they didn’t want the children to breathe too deeply. So, that’s what’s happening in a good part of the rest of the world, and if uh– and all– all throughout America, the water, I mean, you just– you can’t drink the water, and you can’t breathe the air, and it’s just reflective of, not just the poisons in the air and in the water, but the poisons in the political system which pit one person against another, instead of– instead of this (with feeling) incredible– this is the– this– of all– I’ve been to a lot of places, I mean, I’ve traveled to China four years ago, and in every country in Europe, East and West, but I have never seen anything like this. I’ve never– and I don’t think anybody has, and if there’s any one thing that I would be critical about you, it would be this. That this, what you have failed to do, is to somehow get the word back – it’s not easy – to get the word back to all of America about what is happening here. It’s an experiment which is the future, and which has succeeded, because I think that this would, first of all, be an inspiration to people throughout all of America, who are struggling without even knowing exactly for the abstract, they’re struggling. But this is the reality. And they should know that it’s possible. And that– And nothing, it seems to me, could be more embarrassing to the Administration, than to know that there are so many Americans who are here, far away from there, because it’s not possible to live this way, back in the country where we were born.

Crowd: (sustained applause)

Lane: Can I tell you? You are– You are an absolute inspiration. An absolute inspiration to anyone who comes here who has uh, any kind of sensitivity, and the eyes, or ears, or any senses at all. You’re an absolute inspiration. And I tell you this, that when I leave here, and get back to the United States in a– in a few days, when I get back there, that uh, I will do everything in my power, in every way possible, radio programs, and television programs, and interviews and articles, et cetera, to let the people of the United States, let our sisters and our brothers throughout the United States know that this is a reality, because at the present time, they know that someplace here is an abstract, they know that what is there is wrong. They know that there can be something better, there has to be something better, but they don’t know specifically what it is. And it is here, and we all, I think, have responsibility to let them know that. Thank you. Thank you.

Crowd: (sustained applause)

Jones: Thank you. (Pause) We would like to say, we would like to say to this good man, we’ve felt all alone, so desperately alone, that there was no one in journalism that we felt would give us a fair shake. There’s no use for me to try to verbalize what his coming has meant to us. In one little way, for his concern and kindness to us, we want to help for the cause and heal the (unintelligible), is that woman that has suffered so long, Grace Waldron [Walden]. We want to take her into our community (unintelligible word).

Crowd: (cheers, sustained applause)

Jones: I knew that was the response you’d have, and that’s what makes me love you so much. And now you can go back to whatever you were doing, making the doll or watching the movie and TV. Thank you for so kindly attentive, uh, being a kindly attentive audience, I said to Sarah [Harriet Tropp], it helps so much to have someone come from outside, with all this bit–­ background, to tell you what’s really happening in (unintelligible word) America, because my voice gets sort of monotonous. You’ve heard it over and over and over again. But here you’ve heard, in this distinguished man, the nightmare that we’re under. It’s a very dangerous (unintelligible word, could be “crowd”) that we’ve all got to work to try to do something, before it’s too late.

Crowd: (applause)

End of tape

Originally posted on February 13th, 2019.

Last modified on February 14th, 2019.
Skip to main content