History In Ink®  Historical Autographs


[Martin Luther King, Jr., Assassination]

James Earl Ray

Scroll down to see images of the items below the description

Thought you might like to eyeball the old Home-stead.

There has been some changes but it looks about the same now as then – 1934.

James Earl Ray, 1928–1998.  Convicted assassin of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.  Autograph Letter Signed,  Sincerely, J. E. Ray, one page, 8½” x 11”, on plain stationery, Nashville, Tennessee, September 28, 1995.  Accompanied by newspaper clipping signed James Earl Ray.  With original envelope.

In this letter, which has never been offered on the autograph market before, Ray writes to send a copy of a newspaper article about Tennessee’s Brushy Mountain State Penitentiary, where he was imprisoned.  Ray writes, in full:  “I recently rec’d this photo from a newspaper.  Thought you might like to eyeball the old Home-stead.  There has been some changes but it looks about the same now as then – 1934.  /  Spoke to Jerry last night.  Everything seems to be going OK.  /  I read part of Pepper’s new book. Will read it all later.  /  I’ll get back with you later.”  He adds a typewritten postscript:  “Guess Jerry told you that a letter I sent to you was returned to him for no postage on. I put it on but some of the stamps now don”t [sic] have much glue on them.”

The newspaper article is from the September 21, 1995, issue of the Morgan County [Tennessee] News.  The article, “Brushy mission changing with time,” is illustrated with historical photographs of Brushy Mountain.  Ray has signed with a full signature, James Earl Ray — Sept – 95, above a 1934 wide-angle photo of the prison.  The article notes that the penitentiary would be 100 years old in 1996.  It was the oldest operating penal facility in Tennessee once the Tennessee State Penitentiary was closed in 1993.  Brush Mountain remained open until 2009, when its operations were moved and the prison closed.

Ray’s reference to “Pepper’s new book” is to a book by his last lawyer, William F. Pepper, entitled Orders to Kill: The Truth Behind the Murder of Martin Luther King, Jr., which Pepper published in 1995.  Pepper argued that Ray was framed for the King assassination, which Pepper said involved the FBI, the CIA, the Memphis police, organized crime figures from Memphis and New Orleans, and others.  Pepper later published updated versions of the book as An Act of State: The Execution of Martin Luther King (2003) and The Plot to Kill King: The Truth Behind the Assassination of Martin Luther King Jr. (2016).

Ray, who confessed to killing King, almost immediately recanted and spent the rest of his life unsuccessfully trying to withdraw his guilty plea and obtain a trial.  Pepper represented Ray in a mock trial for British television, which was part of Ray’s effort to convince Tennessee authorities that he should have a real trial.  The jury in the mock trial acquitted him. 

King’s family concluded that Ray was innocent and urged that he be given a trial.  Pepper represented the King family in a wrongful death suit against Loyd Jowers and others.  In 1993, Jowers, who owned a restaurant near the Lorraine Motel, told Sam Donaldson of ABC’s Primetime Live that there was a conspiracy to kill King, that he had hired a Memphis police officer to shoot him, and that Ray was a scapegoat.  There were allegations that the FBI, CIA, and organized crime were all involved.  A jury sided with the King family and returned a judgment against Jowers.  In 2000, however, the United States Department of Justice issued a 150-page report that rejected the conspiracy allegations and the jury’s findings.

In this letter, Ray also refers twice to his brother, Jerry (1936–2016), who supported him and who would later be the executor of his estate.  He adds a second autograph, J. E. Ray, in printing at the top of the letter.

This letter is in very fine condition.  Were it not for the normal mailing folds, which do not affect the signature, we would grade it extra fine.  Ray has written and signed the letter in signed in black ballpoint and has affixed one of his personal silver return address labels beneath his signature.  Ray has signed the accompanying photocopy of the newspaper article in black felt tip pen.  The photocopy has horizontal and vertical folds, and the vertical fold passes through the “m” in “James” in Ray’s signature.  It is in fine condition.  The original mailing envelope has Jerry Ray’s return address. It has been opened at the top.  It has typical postal markings on the front, and on the back is a stamp by the Tennessee Department of Corrections stating that it had not inspected or censored the contents and a circular receipt stamp.  The envelope is in fine condition.



Click here to see more American History items.

Three pieces:  $395.00


The copy of the newspaper article is larger than the scan shows.  It contains the entire article about the prison.

Click the left and right arrows, if necessary, to scroll through the scans.





home  |  presidents  |  supreme court  |  american history  |  world history  |  contact us


© History In Ink, L.L.C.




 Registered Dealer # RD281