Six weeks after my book Who Really Killed Martin Luther King Jr.? — The Case Against Lyndon B. Johnson and J. Edgar Hoover was published, John Curington published his memoirs, H. L. Hunt, Motive and Opportunity, about his career working as H. L. Hunt’s “right-hand man.” Within that book, he explains how Percy Foreman wound up in the Shelby County Jail at the precise moment that James Earl Ray decided to fire Arthur Hanes, and immediately began pressuring Ray to plead guilty.
Well, maybe not really “new” evidence technically, but new to me anyway. Thanks to the intrepid “old school” journalist (i.e., coming up in the days when the term intrinsically meant “integrity”) and former President of Times Books, Thomas Lipscomb, who recently brought to my attention the statements John Curington made in his 2018 memoirs. It should be understood that Curington’s career with Hunt was built around his abilities to conduct Hunt’s devious deals and that might cause one to view his statements skeptically; however, the book was written decades after Hunt’s passing and—like Billie Sol Estes’ later ruminations—old age generally brings with it a degree of penance-seeking for earlier regrettable acts. The need to find peace within one’s soul generally imbues late-age admissions with essential truth.
Curington’s statements, below, “fill the gap” left in my book about how Percy Foreman mysteriously showed up at the Shelby County Jail in November, 1968, just as James Earl Ray decided to fire his attorney Arthur Hanes. Ray felt that Hanes had betrayed him in providing too much information on his case to William Bradford Huie, and the only way to get rid of Huie was to fire Hanes.
Ray’s decision to fire Hanes occurred immediately after the publication of the first (of three) of Huie’s Look magazine articles, November, 12, 1968; that’s when Ray finally realized how he had been “had” by Huie, who was supposed to be conveying a story that conformed to his innocence. Instead it revealed more details of his defense strategy than he had expected, greatly upsetting him. Ray had discussed his growing angst about Hanes and Huie’s betrayal with his brothers on their visits to his cell and — thanks to the hidden microphones and CCTV cameras installed in and outside of the specially-built cell — the jailers kept the MPD and FBI (thus Hoover and Johnson) informed of this turn of events. Clearly, they wasted no time in enlisting Foreman for this special mission.
For Johnson and Hoover, the opportunity to finagle Ray to pick LBJ’s long-time friend Percy Foreman would have been cause for celebration for them, knowing how successful Foreman was in forcing his will on everyone, whether they be clients, opposing lawyers, prosecutors, judges and even sometimes jurors who he determined were vulnerable to his “tampering,” and witnesses, whom he often — if all else failed — brazenly pressed into suborning perjury.
Unfortunately, the oleaginous Huie soon became just as attached to the shyster Foreman as he had been to Hanes and James Earl Ray was suddenly put into a much worse position than before: At least Hanes was attempting to actually mount a serious defense, and might have succeeded, given the very weak case the prosecution could have made.
Within his book, John Curington stated that H. L. Hunt gave him a briefcase loaded with $125,000 in cash (over $900,000. in today’s value) and told him to visit Foreman at his office and how to make the presentation: “[I] laid it on the desk in front of him. ‘I have one hundred and twenty-five thousand reasons why James Earl Ray should plead guilty to killing Martin Luther King,’ I said. Foreman looked at me and said, ‘Well, just leave them with me, and I’ll take a look at them.’ I walked out of the room, not having been there more than a minute or two. I left the $125,000 . . . and sure enough, James Earl Ray entered a guilty plea [four months later, after finally relenting to Foreman’s constant pressure].” (Kindle Part IV, Loc. 1864).
Curington then lamented about what Hunt’s possible motive might have been: “Why was it so important for Mr. Hunt to have a confession from Ray? . . . That phone conversation that I was privy to between Mr. Hunt and Percy Foreman was very short and to the point, and the promise of money was just a veiled, casual thing. My own conversation with Foreman wasn’t much more. Surely some prior groundwork had been done, and I have to wonder if it hadn’t been done between J. Edgar Hoover, Mr. Hunt, and Percy Foreman. Unfortunately, the answers to all those things and many other questions died with Mr. Hunt.” (Kindle, Part IV, Loc. 1881)
All of this explains why Foreman was so intent on forcing Ray to plead guilty from the moment he became his lawyer, always reminding him about Judge Battle’s standing injunction against Ray ever making another attorney change. The absence of a plausible motive on his part can only be explained by the obvious presence of a very clear and specific motive on the parts of Johnson and Hoover: That they knew the case against Ray was very weak, with no evidence that he was on the scene, no forensic evidence tying the shot to the rifle found thrown down with his belongings in a store-front alcove, unreliable witnesses like the completely inebriated Charlie Stephens, his common law wife who claimed she did see a man running from the scene who was much shorter and lighter than Ray, and numerous others whose stories did not conform to the lies being pushed.
Above all else, they wanted to remove any possibility that Ray would receive a trial at all, much less a “fair” one. Having Hunt pay off Foreman to “guarantee” that it would not happen was merely one of many strings they would pull to make that happen.
Another plausible “string” they might have pulled, impossible to prove at this stage but too “coincidental” to be random, was the fact that two judges, who came too close to allowing Ray to have a trial, both unfortunately suffered heart attacks — at the most propitious times, just as they prepared to make a ruling — causing their immediate deaths. Six years after the fact, it was revealed in hearings of the Congressional Church Committee that the CIA had developed a “heart attack gun” in the early 1960s. When someone there decided that a key person might need to have an early death, that gun could deliver a tiny frozen needle only a quarter inch long and with the diameter of a human hair. Upon entering the body it would thaw and deliver a toxin that induced a heart attack but then became undetectable at autopsy. In 1969 it was still unknown outside of the Agency.
Curington admitted that Hunt had no real motive, though in referencing only Hoover’s motive, he, like so many other people with well-worn blinders in place, couldn’t imagine that Lyndon B. Johnson was also behind the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr., not to mention those of JFK and RFK (and assorted others as described in my four books).