Monday, December 15, 2008

Truth At Last

"Truth At Last" is "The Untold Story Behind James Earl Ray and the Assassination of Martin Luther King Jr." written by Ray's brother, John Larry Ray and Lyndon Barsten. Copyright restrictions prohibit any use of the book without permission, so no direct quotes here. John tells the story of his father being a hobo. According to John, he father was paid for labor with food and arrested while cooking over a camp fire, charged with stealing that food. His father did not like to work and was tortured in prison. His mother made a stink and he was released to work on a farm. He escaped. This happened between the years 1921 and 1923.

Using direct quotes is easier that explaining that pulling homeless men off freight trains, they could be charged with vagrancy and forced to work on those farms, was routine. The father also played a banjo to earn money during his hobo days.

James Earl Ray was given a general discharge from the Army on December 23, 1948. I do not know how long it took ships to cross the ocean, but when he got back to New York from Germany he was sent to Camp Kilmer in New Jersey and left to spend the Christmas holidays with family in Quincy, Illinois. That has nothing to do with homeless mentions in the book. As a child I was not allowed to go into the woods without an older sibling. My mother worried about the "tramps" or "hobos" that camped there. The train did run alongside of those woods. The woods bordered Codwise Ave. that was later renamed to Joyce Kilmer Avenue. Not far away was the Army base turned Job Corp, Camp Kilmer. It never entered my head to wonder if that military base was named after Joyce Kilmer, as was our Ave.

"Truth At Last" does not say that James or John were ever homeless; but some of their experiences resemble things today's homeless do, such as hitching rides to California, staying in Missions or getting arrested on "thrumped up vagrancy charges". The Mission in St. Louis was described as a place where criminals met up and convicts "paroled" there. I do not know if the author means to imply that the Christian minister was in anyway involved with the Mafia men that were part of the group using that Mission.

Towards the end of the book, the author's mention needing a map to follow James Earl Ray's conflicting reports. I did feel I needed a map to follow the accounts related in the book. John says James was always a decent person. I do not think passing stolen money orders is the mark of a decent person. John makes a case as to why James did that and protests that James was charged with the actual theft, of which he did not participate. If the authors intent was to elicit sympathy for James or others in the Ray family, it did not work for me. Exception being the mother.

John Ray was in the Fort Worth/Dallas area tending bar when JFK was killed and in New York in 1965 when Malcolm X was shot to death. He was also in Chicago in 1952 standing across the street from where both presidential candidates were staying, when he was arrested. John does not say why he was standing there. The police queried him about which of those two candidates he intended to shoot. He had visited James in jail and says James told him he could earn some cash driving a getaway car for someone planning to shoot one of those candidates. John's point in telling the story is probably in making his case that the government had picked James out as a patsy as early as 1952 and perhaps had him under survellence also.

I no longer recall the events following King's murder; vague recollections as I read about his killer dropping the rifle near the scene and escaping to Europe. John Ray and Barsten say that it was later proved that the fatal bullet did not come from that rifle. I have vague recollections of hearing the "conspiracy theory" surrounding King's death. As long as he was preaching Civil Rights, the government tolerated him and had him killed once he spoke out against the Vietnam war, is how that goes. I would never rule out the government's involvement in the assassination. "Truth At Last" might be the "whole truth and nothing but the truth" and prove James Earl Ray's innocence.

The authors often ask questions about logic and common sense. My own would be, if the government was as involved to the extent that the authors claimed, would not they have been able to do away with both James and John? Many missing persons are never found. A quick kill of John and disposal of his body, could go unsolved. I tend to believe that many jail suicides are wrongful deaths. Yet why lock John up to keep him off the streets, rather than simply doing away with him?

John says he was never involved with the Mafia, as was an Uncle and James. There are so many shootings in the Long Beach area that are purported to be gang related. I have read a lot about the Mexican Mafia involvement with the local gangs. Killing innocent people to enforce payment of taxes to them, for instance. Five people were recently killed at a homeless camp in Long Beach. Police have no clue as to who done it. Thus, although I do not rule out a conspiracy or government involvement in King's death, I do not fully believe all I read in "Truth at Last". Much of it reads like criminals who all say "I did not do it", when they actually did.

Describing the events leading up to King's death, John says James checked into the dive hotel around 3:00 - 2:30. After paying for the room he went back to Jim's Grill and Raul wanted to check out Jame's room. He told James to bring his stuff inside, because they might be staying a few days, then sent him shopping. Raul was waiting for him in his room. He went back to Jim's Grill and ordered a beer. He was sitting in his car as ordered when he heard a shot and Raul jumped in the car covering himself with a shett and after a few blocks, Raul jumped out and took off running.

Okay, when was James ordered to sit in the car? James knew he was going to be driving a getaway car, although he says he did not know what the crime was to be. When Raul told him to sit in the car and wait, would not James realize the crime was about to happen and remove his stuff from the room, rather than sitting and having a beer? I imagine he decided to drive out of the state, after Raul first jumped into the car and then bailed, assuming the crime had went down. Did the two guys converse while Raul was hiding under the sheet? Did he wonder why the guy he was hired to get away, decided to get away without his hired driver?

In the Epilogue the authors mentions Vincent Foster and others. I studied Foster extensively on the Internet and wonder about Obama's choice of Hillary Clinton as Secretary of State. She labeled him naive. Innocent people often are the most trusting people. Foster's death obviously was not suicide. Even I do not want to believe Hillary was involved; but Hillary's behavior during the primary election sure makes her suspect of all kinds of treachery. (12/07/08)

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