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MLK assassination still clouded with mystery after 50 years

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Martin Luther King Jr. delivers his famed "I Have Dream" speech from the steps of the Lincoln Memorial on August 28, 1963. UPI File Photo
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By Doug G. Ware, UPI

Despite growing threats on his life, Martin Luther King Jr. had committed to going to Memphis.

[post_ads]There, he wanted to march with striking minority sanitation workers. Before the trip was over, the civil rights leader was dead and one of the most controversial -- and mysterious -- cases in U.S. history began.

Raised in Georgia, King became a Baptist minister at 18 and would spend the next two decades building a civil rights legacy recognized the world over. His national crusade, though, was abruptly cut short 50 years ago, on April 4, 1968.

In the decades since his death, King's assassination has been pored over perhaps more than any case other than the shooting of President John F. Kennedy. Examinations and re-examinations of King's death have been done at local and congressional levels, and conspiracy theories are nearly as common as those surrounding Kennedy.

The shooting

King arrived in Memphis on April 3, 1968, after his flight was delayed by a bomb threat. That evening, he gave the final speech of his life -- in which his words later seemed prophetic.

"I don't know what will happen now. We've got some difficult days ahead. But it doesn't matter with me now. Because I've been to the mountaintop," he said. "Like anybody, I would like to live a long life. ... But I'm not concerned about that now. I just want to do God's will. And He's allowed me to go up to the mountain. And I've looked over. And I've seen the promised land.

"I may not get there with you, but I want you to know tonight, that we, as a people, will get to the promised land. And so I'm happy, tonight. I'm not worried about anything. I'm not fearing any man."

Because King's visit to Memphis had been well advertised, it was no secret that he was staying at the Lorraine Motel. James Earl Ray, who at one time confessed to being the assassin, changed his residence on April 4 -- police said in order to be closer to King's motel. At a rooming house, he checks into room No. 8 under the name John Willard.
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After purchasing a pair of binoculars, Ray returns to his room -- where police said he kept an eye on King's balcony. At 6:01 p.m., King emerged from the room with a few associates and a single shot rang out. The 39-year-old civil rights leader was struck in the head and thrown violently backward as members of his entourage, immortalized in a now-famous photograph, pointed toward the area they heard the shot come from -- Ray's rooming house.

"Martin Luther King took his cross on his shoulder over at the Lorraine Motel, and there he was crucified,"the Rev. Ralph Abernathy said in 1968.

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U.S. - U.S. Daily News: MLK assassination still clouded with mystery after 50 years
MLK assassination still clouded with mystery after 50 years
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