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An Act of State: The Execution of Martin Luther King Hardcover – January 17, 2003

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 336 pages
  • Publisher: Verso (January 17, 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1859846955
  • ISBN-13: 978-1859846957
  • Product Dimensions: 0.6 x 0.1 x 0.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (30 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #246,480 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Forget everything you think you know, Pepper insists. James Earl Ray did not pull the trigger. The journalist-turned-lawyer's previous title, Orders to Kill: The Truth Behind the Murder of Martin Luther King Jr., was more a prelude to this title than the final word. Twenty years after James Earl Ray was convicted, Pepper set out to clear him; in the process, he brought to light reams of evidence that were ignored in the original trial. The key to his case is Loyd Jowers, a bar owner who claims to have disposed of the murder weapon at the request of a local mob figure. Partially on the strength of the Orders to Kill material, Pepper won the support of King's wife and children, who brought Jowers and "unknown co-conspirators" to trial in a civil wrongful death suit in 1999. Dozens of witnesses contributed to a forceful, detailed case that accused the FBI, the CIA, the U.S. military, the Memphis police, and local and national organized crime leaders. After only an hour of deliberation, the jury found for the King family. The accusers, led by Pepper, cried vindication and fully expected to be at the center of one of the biggest news stories of the century. But the trial and the verdict barely registered in the media. Appalled by the silence that followed, Pepper remained determined to bring the details of his exhaustive probe and subsequent civil case to the public, and the result is this exacting book, dense with evidence and analysis of the murder. Pepper sets the tone by recalling the state of civil unrest in this country during the late 1960s and why King's radical activism was such a threat to government and corporate leaders. Simply put, Pepper claims those in power were scared to death of the mass mobilization King's Poor People's Campaign might have inspired. Pepper gradually introduces the vast cast of characters in a dizzying murder conspiracy that winds from a Memphis bar through the shadows of organized crime to the far reaches of national government. He carefully maps each player's place and role in the tangled web and doggedly tries to stick to a straightforward narrative. The number of unanswered questions complicates those efforts, but does not cloud the evidence that Ray was not the shooter. Pepper attempts nothing less than a rewrite of history, and a spurring of further investigation. While his moralizing epilogue on the deterioration of democracy is distracting, it is heartfelt, and honors Pepper's commitment to King's legacy.
Copyright 2002 Reed Business Information, Inc.

From Booklist

In 1978, Pepper began investigating the 1968 assassination of Martin Luther King Jr. In this absorbing and detailed book, Pepper maintains that James Earl Ray was not the assassin. Instead, Pepper's investigation points to a conspiracy by the U.S. government and its military and intelligence organizations to silence King's growing criticism of the Vietnam War and his anti-poverty campaign. In part one, Pepper focuses on his early investigative efforts, including interviews with several witnesses to King's murder. Pepper also details his efforts to get a new trial for convicted assassin James Ray, and the cooperation by the King family in that effort. Part two details the 1999 trial, several years after Ray's death, and new testimony and forensic evidence pointing to government involvement in the assassination and cover-up. Pepper roundly criticizes the U.S. media for its lack of coverage of the trial; he also takes to task the 1998 report by the U.S. Attorney General, an investigation undertaken by the Clinton administration in lieu of the independent investigation requested by Pepper and the King family. Pepper also explores the promise for social change represented by King's aborted anti-war and anti-poverty campaigns. Readers--particularly conspiracy buffs--interested in the details surrounding the King assassination will enjoy this passionate, disturbing, and well-researched book. Vanessa Bush
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved

Customer Reviews

Easy to follow the sequence of events.
Terrie Gates
The book systematically overturns the Government's ... case against James Earl Ray as Martin Luther King's assassin.
Bob Lupo
I found this book to be incredibly enlightening.
Samuel A. Holloway

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

46 of 52 people found the following review helpful By Douglas Doepke on March 28, 2003
Format: Hardcover
I'm new to the details of the King assassination, and though I lived through that period the details, as I recall, were never made clear unlike the previous JFK murder. It was pretty clear, however, that the killing was a coordinated effort by shadowy background forces, and not even the government pressed its usual lone assassin case very hard. The result was a lot of loose ends awaiting real investigation. This is Pepper's second book on the topic. I wish I had read the first one before picking up this one, because An Act of State does not serve well as an introduction. Instead of summarizing the official story and introducing the principals, the opening chapters plunge us into subsequent developments, which for newcomers like myself risks confusion from the outset. Moreover the work as a whole is neither well organized nor cogently edited creating additional obstacles for the uninitiated. Nonetheless, there are so many fascinating factual aspects brought to light by Pepper, that the book stands as a must read for those interested in America's hidden history. So for those with a skimpy background such as myself, either prep with a better intoduction or be prepared to sort through as best you can. The results speak volumes.
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31 of 36 people found the following review helpful By John C. Landon on May 16, 2003
Format: Hardcover
This is the account of King lawyer William Pepper's pursuit of the facts in the King assassination, and his denouement of the evidence, centering on the successful civil suit of Lloyd Jowers, a local resident with a business across the street from the motel murder site and with a connection to the murder, which led to the unraveling. The credentials of the ringleaders and perpetrates are very impressive indeed and include J. Edgar ('the' J. Edgar),the CIA, FBI, Memphis Police Department and assorted sordid Mob hoodlums. That's quite a team. But then the motive appears to have centered on the decision by Martin Luther King to bring the focus of his movement on poverty and the Vietnam War. It took the jury one hour to decide that:
1. Yes--Lloyd Jowers participated in a conspiracy to do harm to Martin Luther King
2. Yes--Others including governmental agencies were parties to this conspiracy as alleged by the defendant.
This should have been headline news, but the story never survived, and it wasn't news to me until I stumbled on the book in the library, and I read a lot of books.
I hope you find out too.
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23 of 27 people found the following review helpful By Pearse O'Sullivan on September 21, 2005
Format: Hardcover
Coretta Scott King recommends this book "to everyone who seeks the truth about Dr. King's assassination." I do as well, and furthermore, I recommend it to the majority of Americans who would rather NOT know the circumstances and reality concerning MLKJr's death. These are sad times when the government can bestow a memorial day upon a fallen hero, but continue to deny the reality of their own complicity and possible participation.
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21 of 25 people found the following review helpful By Bob Lupo on February 26, 2003
Format: Hardcover
An Act Of State--The Execution Of Martin Luther King--is a chilling indictment of the deadly madness that was rampant through American Society in the 1960s. The book systematically overturns the Government's ... case against James Earl Ray as Martin Luther King's assassin. Instead, it paints a series of powerful vignettes that appear to implicate various agencies of the Federal Government, elements of of the Memphis Police Department, other of the City's Municipal units, and pieces of the Carlos Marcello Mob in New Orleans, in planning and covering up Dr. King's tragic murder. This crime robbed the nation of its greatest leader for social justice in the twentieth century--a loss we as a nation may never recoup. Dr. Pepper relentlessly assembles a body of evidence: circumstantial, eye witness, and admissible hearsay that would prove his case beyond a reasonable doubt before an impartial court of public opinion. And perhaps this is the most haunting aspect of the tragic murder of an American icon:How free are we as a people and a culture when the truth cannot be told? How free are we when evidence and news is managed and withheld? How far our separation from the Body Of Laws we celebrate in our flag, anthems, hymns, and pledges?Dare I whisper: far. Bob Lupo, author, A Buffalo's Revenge, and Extremities-4.
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16 of 19 people found the following review helpful By Joseph F. Dunphy MBA on January 15, 2006
Format: Hardcover
This book is written by an English lawyer, who comes to these events with an analytical eye. He compiles evidence, and draws conclusions based on the evidence. The resulting portrait is not flattering to the US government. The evidence he cites points to apparantly rogue elements of the FBI and intelligence services actively involved in plotting and cover-up of the assasination attempt. This book deserves a film or investigation of its own, as it reverses the commonly-held view that a lone gunman succeeded in the assasination attempt. Taken in context with later relevations of J.Edgar Hoover's abuses of power, spying on US citizens, the Nixon Enemies list, The Pentagon Papers, the growing power of the mob over political figures, and the insidious intersection of the drug trade with the arms trade and politics, this book shows a way that institutionalized violence by elements of the US government can undercut the democratic process.

Students of English repression of the Irish, Indian colonies, double-dealing in Egypt and the Middle-East, and so on, will recognize the symptoms of absolute power corrupting absolutely. If the evidence in this book were demonstrated with the modern techniques of 3-dimensional (3-D) animation used in modern courtroom investigation, it would be even more convincing. As a sidenote, fans of the distinguished journalist Earl Caldwell will note how his eyewitness testimony (along with that of others) was ignored or contorted to the detriment of the evidence. If DNA analysis were available at the time this book was written, it is quite possible that the level of proof would be even more conclusive. This book, even at this late date, argues convincingly that the MLK investigation was absolutely inadequate.
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