James Earl Ray Caught in London

king1James Earl Ray’s ultimate destination was Rhodesia, Africa. After he assassinated Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Ray’s odyssey from Memphis to London by way of Toronto and his confession then recant for the murder, is worthy of recounting.

Not widely known is the chronology of events during the “manhunt” for Ray, following the murder of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. on April 4, 1968 in Memphis, Tennessee. Questions remain on national security, crossing international borders, (he crossed into Canada twice) obtaining fake passports, and how did he live for two months, pay rent, buy a car or a plane ticket to London.

James Earl Ray (March 10, 1928 – April 23, 1998); a devote racist, clearly thought that a place where white people lived well,  in a position of authority and Blacks sadly were treated as second class citizens, would be a great place to hide out for the rest of his life. In 1960 Rhodesia’s population was more than 96% black, with a government that was mostly all white.

During the mid-60’s, the white citizens of Rhodesia attempted to postpone or stop efforts to create a majority black government by declaring independence from Britain, and hopefully join the British Commonwealth of Nations.  That charade only lasted for a few years until the majority black population formed a new government and changed the name of the country to Zimbabwe.

James_Earl_Ray-F.B.I._wanted_poster-Few people are familiar with Ray being caught in London. However, fewer people may know that the manhunt took months and that Ray spent time in Toronto, Canada. The search for James Earl Ray was billed as the biggest “Manhunt in History” by the F.B.I. Tracing his movements from Memphis or for that matter from Atlanta, back to Memphis and to a rented room with a “line of sight” of the of room 306 at the  Lorraine Motel, and ultimately to Heathrow Airport, would seem to have required assistance of others and an elaborate scheme planned over several months with countless accomplices. He attempted to board a plan to Belgium in London on June 8, 1968, a full two months after the assassination.

Conspiracy theories abound. In Memphis, Rev. Billy Kyles was accused of standing “out of the way” of that fatal shot.  Some thought , and many still believe Kyles must have teamed with others, and assisted in the assassination. Rev. Kyles, and reasonable people in the civil rights movement, dismissed the idea of his complicity in assassination. Rev. Kyles served as pastor of Monumental Baptist Church for 55 years, just retiring in 2014.  When Ray was finally transported back to the United States, he originally confessed. Then he traded a confession and guilty plea along with a sure execution, for his life and a 99 year jail sentence.





Ray concocted a story of a Latin man, named Raoul, that purchased the 30-06 Remington rifle and rented the room at the boarding house across from the  Motel. In 1967, Ray had escaped from Missouri State Penitentiary, he was serving a 20 year sentence for armed robbery. When Ray escaped the Missouri jail he made his was to Canada. His alibi was he was part of a gun-running scheme, with a smuggler he had met at the Montreal Expo in 1967.  No one has recounted how an escaped prisoner crossed the international border the first time, as far as we know, to get to Montreal.

A reporter for a Canadian newspaper (The Star, from Toronto) interviewed Ray for the 25th observance (1993) of Dr. King’s death at the Nashville Riverbend Maximum Security Institution. Ray still maintained his innocence and insisted that he had confessed under duress. Ray at that time insisted he was a patsy for a much larger conspiracy.


Ray confessed to Dr. King’s murder on March 10, 1969.

The reporters of “The Star”, said that Ray told them he left Memphis and drove to Atlanta. Got on a bus for Detroit, crossed over to Windsor, Ontario and took the train to Toronto. We can now ask, how did on April 5th the day after the assassination, with a nationwide manhunt going on, could he leave the country. Ray stayed in Toronto for weeks waiting for his application for a Canadian passport to be processed. He obviously obtained it under an assumed name. He bought an airline ticket from Toronto to London was $345. How did he afford that ticket?

The racist, robber, murderer and liar met his fate, dying in jail. Many of the conspiracy questions go unanswered. No one doubts that he fired the fatal shot. No one believes anything Ray contended. However, the questions regarding his logistics seem to have gone unanswered.  Nevertheless, the world lost a powerful leader and African-Americans barely had time to recover from Dr. King’s death when the political hopeful Robert (Bobby) Kennedy was killed in a California ballroom kitchen, after giving a speech during the Democratic Party presidential primary victory gathering.









Rev. Abernathy, Andrew Young and others say goodbye.

Rev. Abernathy, Andrew Young and others say goodbye.






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One Comment:

  1. We will never get over Dr. King’s horrible assassination. We will never stop examining the events before after April 4, 1968. BlackHistory-101 offers this post to stimulate thought and promote further reverence of that day.

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