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[Martin Luther King, Jr., Assassination]

James Earl Ray

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An attorney will be here next week to see if he can rep. me in the MLK classified records matter.

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,] March 18, 1996.  Accompanied by a sketch signed James Earl Ray.  With original envelope.

Ray refers in this letter to his continued efforts to access classified federal records relating to the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.  He confessed to killing King but almost immediately recanted and spent the rest of his life unsuccessfully trying to withdraw his guilty plea and obtain a trial. 

Ray writes, in full (grammar and spelling as in original):  “I have your card.  Also, thank you for the stamps.  I have sued the local private infirmary so will use them for certified mail.  This weekend is the first I’ve had nothing to do (16 & 17th).  An attorney will be here next week to see if he can rep. me in the MLK classified records matter.  Jerry is doing OK and will be here Sundy.  /  A Dude who has been writing me and ordered a couple painting was here last weekend.  He took Jerry & some locals I know to dinner; however Jerry just drank beer.  /  I have enclosed a sketch a Lady sent me from Kentucky.  Pretty good I think.  /  Well I get back with you later.  Have a few more letters to write.  /  Back with you later.”

The enclosed sketch is a drawing of a pelican attempting to swallow a frog—but the frog, whose head is buried in the pelican’s throat, is choking the pelican with its front feet.  The caption, written in another hand, reads dont ever’ give up.”   At the top is a typed legend “JE Ray, & the media Mogul– ‘Justice’ system cabal.”  Ray signs below the legend, James Earl Ray, and notes “I didn’t do this sketch.”  In the letter, he says that the sketch is [p]retty good I think.”

Ray’s references to “Jerry” are to his brother, Jerry (1936–2016), who supported him and who would later be the executor of his estate.

This letter is in fine condition.  Ray has written and signed the letter in blue ballpoint.  It has normal mailing folds, affecting part of the text but not the signature, and shows a bit of handling. The accompanying sketch has folds and a small brown stain in a blank area next to the image, not affecting Ray’s handwriting or signature, and is likewise in fine condition.  The original mailing envelope has been opened at the top, has typical postal markings and a small stain in a blank area near the postmark, and shows a bit of soiling and handling.  It, too, is in fine condition.


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