James Earl Ray

James Earl Ray
James Earl Ray.jpg
Mug shot of Ray taken on July 8, 1955
Born(1928-03-10)March 10, 1928
DiedApril 23, 1998(1998-04-23) (aged 70)
Parent(s)James Gerald Ray
Lucille Ray
Conviction(s)Murder, prison escape, armed robbery, burglary
Criminal penalty99 years imprisonment (one year was added after his re-capture for a total of 100 years)
Details
VictimsDr. Martin Luther King Jr.
DateApril 4, 1968
Notes

James Earl Ray (March 10, 1928 – April 23, 1998) was an American fugitive and felon convicted of assassinating Martin Luther King Jr. in Memphis, Tennessee. Ray was convicted on his 41st birthday after entering a guilty plea to forgo a jury trial. Had he been found guilty by jury trial, he would have been eligible for the death penalty.

Early life and education

Ray was born on March 10, 1928 in Alton, Illinois, the son of Lucille (née Maher) and George Ellis Ray. He had Irish, Scottish and Welsh ancestry and had a Catholic upbringing.[2]

In February 1935, Ray's father, known by the nickname Speedy, passed a bad check in Alton, Illinois, then moved to Ewing, Missouri, where the family changed their name to Raynes to avoid law enforcement.[3] Ray was the first born of nine children,[4] including John Larry Ray,[5] Franklin Ray, Jerry William Ray,[6] Melba Ray, Carol Ray Pepper, Suzan Ray, and Marjorie Ray. His sister Marjorie died in a fire as a young child.[7] Ray left school at the age of fifteen. He later joined the U.S. Army at the close of World War II and served in Germany, although Ray struggled to adapt to military life and was eventually discharged for ineptness and lack of adaptability in 1948.[8]

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