When one thinks of Memphis, four areas of historical and cultural significance immediately come to mind: great barbecue, birthplace of blues music, home of Elvis Presley, and, infamously, site of the assassination of Reverend Martin Luther King Jr.
King was mortally felled by a single sniper’s bullet at approximately 6 p.m., April 4, 1968, as he stood in front of room 306 of the Lorraine Hotel & Motel. When slain, King was in Memphis to lead a march for the city’s embattled sanitation workers, the majority black.
Indigo Films, based out of California, does documentary-type films for popular television shows such as the History Channel, National Geographic, Travel Channel, etc.
Back in late September and early October 2013, Indigo Films contacted me and asked if Jerry Ray and I would travel to Memphis. Indigo was filming a special for the Travel Channel on the King assassination and James Earl Ray’s alleged role, and they wanted to interview Jerry and me.
Jerry Ray is the younger brother of the late James Earl Ray.
I conducted the last live, Q&A interview with James Earl Ray to be published, ever. The interview took place March 25, 1998, was published April 5, 1998, and Ray died from liver disease April 23, 1998.
Jerry Ray and I did travel to Memphis and were interviewed by Indigo Films on Oct. 23, 2013.
The show premiered on the Travel Channel Dec. 22, 2013, and was titled “Murder in Memphis,” which came under the broader heading of “America Declassified.”
Jerry Ray and I watched the show together, and here’s a glimpse of what unfolded:
For an intriguing twist, the show was hosted by an ex CIA officer named Mike Baker. He was particularly interested in the “trajectory” of the bullet that slew Reverend Martin Luther King Jr.
There exist two schools of thought in the King shooting.
The prosecution’s theory is: James Earl Ray shot King from the commonly-shared bathroom of Bessie Brewer’s flophouse, located on the second floor of a building approximately 200 feet in distance — as the bullet travels — from where King was standing in front of room 306.
The other theory is: A gunman other than Ray took the fatal shot from a row of hedges that lined the rear of Jim’s Grill, which was located on the ground floor just below Bessie Brewer’s.
A shot issued from the second-floor bathroom would seemingly have a greater “downward” trajectory than one coming from the ground-floor hedges. However, the precise angle of King’s body, as he leaned over the railing in front of room 306, when the fatal bullet struck, must be factored in some ballistics physics, I suppose.
On “Murder in Memphis,” ex CIA operative Baker conducted a mock reenactment of the flophouse bathroom shot. Though he said Ray “could’ve made” it, the shot was “more difficult, more complicated” than he’d anticipated ‑‑ all this coming from a man with considerable sniper training!
Too, it is necessary to mention that James Earl Ray was a mere “marksman” in the U.S. Army, the lowest rating with which one can qualify.
When interviewed, Jerry Ray stated that James Earl didn’t possess any outstanding arms/shooting skills that he knew of.
Live on television, I stated that when I interviewed James Earl Ray, I asked him if he killed King, and he said no; he was a patsy. I went on to say that while I believed James Earl Ray took some secrets to the ground, I did not believe he was the triggerman.
Ending the show, Baker stated: “I don’t think we actually will know for sure that it was James Earl Ray, absolutely, 100 percent.”
I would like to “thank” Indigo Films and the Travel Channel for taking an unbiased, objective look at the King assassination and James Earl Ray’s guilt/innocence thereof.
Indeed, “Murder in Memphis” was special for me for a couple reasons: I was fortunate enough to watch it in person with Jerry Ray, James Earl Ray’s brother, confidant, and partner in crime. Still, when my mug flashed on the screen, with the byline Mike Vinson – writer, “Murfreesboro Post,” I was proud for the newspaper, the staff, the readers and just to be part of it.