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James Earl Ray

Georgia
June 13, 1977 - statewide

The man who assassinated Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was a small-time crook with big ambitions.
James Earl Ray was born in Alton, Illinois, in 1928. After spending some time in the Army, he robbed gas stations and grocery stores. First convicted in 1949, Ray was serving a 20-year prison sentence in Missouri when he escaped in April 1967. One year later, Ray shot Dr. King from the window of a nearby boarding house while King was standing on the balcony of the Lorraine Motel in Memphis.
Ray was captured in London two months later, confessed and pled guilty, and was sentenced to 99 years. He later recanted his confession and spent the rest of his life requesting a trial, which the King family supported.
In yet another prison escape, James Earl Ray had 54 hours of freedom before he was finally captured by police for the last time on June 13, 1977, Today in Georgia History.

Fast Fact

After dying in prison in 1998, Ray was cremated and his ashes were flown to Ireland because he didn't want to be buried in the United States.

Today in Georgia History is a joint collaboration of the Georgia Historical Society & Georgia Public Broadcasting.