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The Awful Grace of God: Religious Terrorism, White Supremacy, and the Unsolved Murder of Martin Luther King, Jr. Paperback – April 9, 2013
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Praise for The Awful Grace of God
A timely study.” Kirkus
A step in the [right] direction of a better understanding of a national tragedy.” Booklist
About the Author
Larry Hancock graduated from the University of New Mexico with a triple major in anthropology, history, and education. He has worked on a variety of historical research projects, including November Patriots and Someone Would Have Talked. He lives in Oklahoma.
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In the course of clearing out chaff from some previous popular writings on the King murder, Wexler and Hancock engage in some lively debunking of the Lloyd Jowers story, pointing out (among many specific problems with the case made by William Pepper) that the Memphis civil trial proceeding that buttresses the story allowed huge swaths of dubious testimony into the record unchallenged. As an aside, relating to the comment of a previous reviewer that the authors hint that Jowers was in it to profit from his story but offer no proof, the authors specifically cite Dr. Pepper's own work, wherein he relates a story about a Jowers' attempt to persuade one of Pepper's witnesses to alter her story in the pursuit of a $300,000 book/movie offer.
Beyond a paradigm-shifting look at the probable course of a conspiracy to murder Dr. King, Wexler and Hancock probe further - into the frightening ideological swampland that propelled the conspirators: the Christian Identity beliefs of the man whose body of work was slavishly followed by White Knights head Sam Bowers and his cohorts: the Rev. Wesley Swift. Swift's vision of the glories that would follow a race war - the "cleansing" of Jews and other minorities - was the vision that animated the murderers of Dr. King.
Wexler and Hancock do not claim to have all of the answers here, but this path-breaking work surely points us in the right direction.
In this rather contrived effort, however, Hancock and his coauthor Wexler reassess the MLK evidence, and conclude that Ray indeed did it, and that the effort was funded by Southern extreme right wing racists. The book is quite repetitive, with the only new information of interest (the identification of rabid activists and their political mentors) being brought forth every other page, or so it seems.
For those who follows the case, an aged,ailing Memphis restaurant owner (of a grill house located right under the boarding house where the shot that killed MLK was alledgedly fired), Floyd Jowers, came forth in the 90s and contacted the King family to confess his (unwitting, he claimed) participation in the hit on King.
Despite formidable resistance from official Justice, King lawyers managed to bring the case to trial. By preliminary arrangements, the King family had agreed to sue Jowers for just a symbolic penalty of a few dollars.
This spectacular trial is documented in a riveting book, "the 13th juror: the complete transcript of the MLK assassination conspiracy trial",that you can find here at Amazon. It is nearly 800 pages, but I can assure you this is an absolute page-turner.
The authors of "The awful grace of God" dismiss the Jowers confession without much argumentation, hinting that he might have done so for monetary gain, but without producing any evidence for this claim.
I have not heard of any book of film deal negociated by Jowers to cash in on his confession. On the contrary, the detailed transcripts show him as somebody quite reluctant to go on, giving the impression that he actually regretted having come forth with his story.
I found "The Awful Grace..." useful for documentation about the extreme right in the Southern states, and for its bibliography: I ordered from their list "Dixie's dirty secret", an excellent book about the anti-desegragation efforts in the South, where State officials, local police, media and mobsters actually got together to deny Afro-Americans their Civil Rights.
If, like me, you've always been curious about Abe Fortas, who played a major role in the hours after Dallas as LBJ private confident, you'll find interesting material in here..
I did not find the book's main theory (that the hit was conceived and financed by extreme Southern racists, and executed by Ray who needed money) convincing enough to repudiate the Jowers confession, who stated that the killer was not Ray, but a Memphis policeman. But the first part of their theory (the conception and financing) does not contradict Jowers statements that he received money to pass on and a rifle to hold (before the killing) and then to get rid of after the fact.
The financing for the hit on King may have (indeed, it probably did) benefited from Southern money, but the authors'contention about Ray's role did not convince me. Again, there was absolutely no reason, no gain whatsoever for Jowers to incriminate himself in the crime, 30 years after the fact, and with the case officially closed with Ray behind bars.
A good book for research, though,thanks to the index and bibliography....
The expansive depth of their research is impressive and provides convincing factual support. Larry Hancock and Stuart Wexler have presented a unique and thoughtful evidentiary inspection for the reader.