Brushy Mountain State Prison, TN: c. 1982. Signed "Love you Sweetheart - James", 8.5" x 11", blue lined composition paper, tattered along top edge where removed from pad, closed tear at top edge, 1" hole torn along left margin, several creases and mailing fold.
James Earl Ray (1928 - 1980) was convicted of killing Martin Luther King through assassination with a rifle in 1968. Following his enlistment in the U.S. Army during WWII, Ray was discharged for ignoring military rules and often being drunk during duty hours. His life was then filled with crime and punishment: armed robbery, mail fraud, burglary with corresponding prison sentences. In 1967 he escaped from Missouri State Penitentiary and went on the run, mostly in Canada and Mexico. With the George Wallace campaign in full swing. Ray, who was a self-professed racist, was enthusiastically attracted to Wallace's segregationist platform. It is suspected that it was in 1968 that James E. Ray began planning the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr. (MLK). No one knows the exact details of his initial plan, or why he decided to kill MLK, as he never admitted his true reasoning against the crime. Regardless of Ray’s motivation, historians are clear on what happened on the day of MLK’s assassination. James E. Ray rented a hotel room in Memphis, Tennessee. Near his hotel was the Lorraine Motel, where Ray knew MLK was staying. From his hotel room, James E. Ray watched out the window, with a gun in hand, waiting for MLK to appear. Eventually, MLK went out on his balcony to relax. That’s when Ray took his shot, killing MLK, on April 4, 1968.
After the shooting, James E. Ray fled the crime scene. Ray was tricky and hard to find. traveling to Canada, England and elsewhere. On July 19, 1968, the FBI found Ray in London, when a an aware agent recognized the forged name on his fraudulent passport. After being charged with the murder of MLK, James E. Ray pleaded guilty and was sentenced to 99 years in prison. He would later try to suggest that he did not kill MLK, or at least hinted that he did not act alone. He mentioned that the government might have helped to plan the assassination. In 1977, James E. Ray escaped from prison for 3 days. When he was captured and put back in prison, his sentence was extended to 100 years.
Anna Sandhu Ray met Ray when she was assigned by the local network affiliate as the court artist covering his trial for escape from prison. They were married on Friday the 13th, 1978 and divorced 14 years later. She told the press that she married Ray to try to help him. The marriage was never consummated. She continued to support herself as a painter of modestly talented landscapes, animals and florals. In 1996, Anna Ray was evicted from her home which had become a health hazard with dead and unkempt live animals. Good +. Item #2083
“Dear anna: I’ll just write you a short note to let you know I am thinking of you. I have received several l letters, enclosed is one from an attorney. I don’t know whether you would want to be interviewed by him so I will just acknowledge his letter…maybe you might want to go there when it turns cold for a couple of days? Sweetheart if you think of it bring me $40.00 tomorrow, I’ll return it in 8 or 10 days, I have money but loaned out. The prison stopped emergency pay, now we can only withdrawn none twice a month. Have you ever used any of the dedication referred to in the enclosed paper? I get it here (it cost $3.50 for a small bottle / state pays), and it is really good for your eyes. The Bottle says it is not for soft contacts, I don’t know the difference between soft + hard contacts. (the mail just came, rec’d a letter from April + a draft of the suit against Kershaw, and she say’s Galbreath has concluded the cr. Appeal. Love you Sweetheart – James”.