BY MIKE VINSON
Regarding the pivotal '60s, two catalysts forever altered our society: (1) America's "Cold War" with Russia. (2) The Civil Rights Movement. With that in mind, the recent release of Steven Spielberg's movie "Bridge of Spies" highlights a "connection" between U.S. intelligence services and the assassination of Reverend Martin Luther King Jr.
November 1957, Rudolph Abel was imprisoned for being a Russian spy operating in New York City. From 1954-1975, James Jesus Angleton headed the CIA's Counter-Intelligence/CI unit. A plausible assumption is Angleton's CI group played some role in uncovering Abel's true identity, and subsequent arrest. Abel was defended by New York-based Attorney James B. Donovan (Hanks' character in "Bridge of Spies").
In the late '50s, the CIA developed the U-2 spy-plane program to gather intelligence on Russian activity. May 1, 1960, U.S. Air Force Captain Francis Gary Powers was shot down in his U-2 plane by a Soviet surface-to-air missile. Powers was taken prisoner by the Russians, and considered a valuable captive.
Arguably, Reverend Martin Luther King Jr., a black Baptist minister from Atlanta, Georgia, was the most influential force, ever, for the Civil Rights Movement. Though King's platform was one of "nonviolence," many of his marches resulted in violent rioting. An orator of near-celestial bearing, King openly denounced American presence in Vietnam. Certain governmental entities felt King posed a threat to national security.
At approximately 6 p.m., April 4, 1968, in Memphis, Tennessee, Martin Luther King Jr. was fatally struck by a single .30.06 bullet as he leaned across the railing of the second-floor balcony of the Lorraine Hotel & Motel, where King and entourage were lodging.
April 11, 1968, the FBI announced it was looking for "Eric S. Galt" in connection with King's murder. Richard Ober worked directly under James Jesus Angleton in the CIA's CI unit. April 18, 1968, Richard Ober opened a 201 File (Person of Interest) on Eric S. Galt (a Canadian-based alias used by Ray). April 19, 1968, the FBI publicly announced it now was looking for James Earl Ray in connection with the King assassination. The manhunt for Ray was the largest in the Bureau's history, a reported 3,000 agents assigned to apprehend him.
A white, career criminal and a fugitive from the Missouri State Penitentiary, James Earl Ray was arrested in London on June 8, 1968. Jailed in Memphis for nine months under harsh conditions, threatened with the electric chair, Ray entered a "guilty plea" on March 10, 1969, receiving a 99-year sentence. James Earl Ray died April 23, 1998, at age 70, going to his grave denying he shot Reverend Martin Luther King Jr. Expectedly many are convinced Ray was the triggerman, while many are convinced Ray was not the triggerman.
The "connection" between King's assassination and "Bridge of Spies" is a man named Fred T. Wilkinson, who, on the cold night of February 10, 1962, was hand-picked by the CIA to walk side-by-side with Russian spy Rudolph Abel across the Glienicke Bridge, in Berlin, Germany, and trade Abel to the Russians for American U-2 pilot Frances Gary Powers. In 1965, Wilkinson was appointed Director of the Department of Corrections for the state of Missouri. Wilkinson still was Director of Corrections for Missouri when Ray escaped from the Missouri State Penitentiary, April 23, 1967.
In his historically edifying book, "The Martin Luther King Congressional Cover-Up: The Railroading of James Earl Ray" (pages 95-98), author John A. Emison sheds light on dark facts: Though there is mention of the CIA attempting to help the FBI "locate" Ray, Ober's 201 file on James Earl Ray indicates the CIA was mostly interested in whether Ray would get a "full trial"--both before Ray was arrested and after he was arrested. Why would the CIA have been interested in whether James Earl Ray received a "full trial," and seemingly nothing else?
Emison further states, for the record:
"I argued in my book that the CIA likely ran the operation to murder Dr. King; that James Earl Ray was a CIA intelligence 'asset' controlled by a man known only as 'Raoul'; that Fred T. Wilkinson was almost certainly connected to the CIA's James Jesus Angleton. Though I challenged the accuracy of Gerald Posner and Hampton Sides, both of whom wrote books adamantly claiming James Earl Ray murdered Reverend Martin Luther King Jr., neither of them have ever disputed my assertions about Angleton, Ray, Raoul, and Wilkinson."
Rudolph Abel...Gary Powers...U-2 spy plane...James Earl Ray allegedly assassinating Martin Luther King Jr....CIA keeping a 201 file on Ray...Fred T. Wilkinson...it is sufficient cause to pause, ponder, and wonder: Is there a bridge "connecting" the above?