Jesse Jackson – Who Conferred Upon Him the Title “Heir Apparent” to MLK? (Hint: It wasn’t Dr. King)

Jesse Jackson making a point to Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

This essay is based upon facts detailed further within Who REALLY Killed Martin Luther King Jr. — The Case Against Lyndon Johnson and J. Edgar Hoover and includes selected excerpts from the book. Additional citations to assertions made throughout may be found there.

Two of Hoover’s highest-level aides, Cartha DeLoach and William J. Sullivan, possibly others, had the temerity, in 1964, to pick a successor to King to recommend to the NAACP, should their recommendation that King kill himself be accepted.

The nominee whom the top FBI officials suggested in 1964 was Dr. Samuel Riley Pierce, a man, according to Sullivan, who “had a fine reputation . . . high character, ability and the capacity for leadership.” The idea originated with Sullivan, but he noted that his recommendation to Hoover to pick Dr. Pierce for recommendation to the NAACP was first approved by DeLoach and Tolson, before being submitted to Hoover. Since King did not act on the FBI’s advice, the recommendation for his successor was never sent to the NAACP leadership.[1]

At some point in the ensuing four years, Hoover (certainly with input from Assistant Directors Cartha “Deke” DeLoach, William J. Sullivan and Associate Director Clyde Tolson) apparently decided on another candidate whom they selected through their own highly trusted field personnel. There is no “smoking gun” unclassified document presently available (the remaining MLK classified files will not be released until 2029 at the earliest) that explains these details, however what we do know about it is evident from what actually occurred in the immediate aftermath of Dr. King’s assassination. There are plenty of documented historical facts outlined herein which reveal the outlines of a series of clearly preplanned acts, all designed to ensure the ascension of a specific preselected individual into the vacancy left by Dr. King’s murder.

Among the several men in the highest-level of Dr. King’s associates, the most audacious of them would suddenly become the “chosen one” within hours of King’s assassination: Jesse Louis Jackson, a man whom Dr. King neither trusted nor liked (according to the others as noted below). Jackson took immediate steps to ensure that he would become King’s “chosen successor” immediately upon his death.

Jesse Jackson’s Immediate Ad Hoc “Publicity Juggernaut

In the immediate aftermath, Jesse Jackson would claim—over and again—that he “was the last man King spoke to before he was shot in Memphis. Jesse ran to the balcony, held King’s head, but it was too late.” The Chicago Defender newspaper reported that on April 8, 1968, and further, that “Jackson, whose face appeared drawn, talked briefly with newsmen about the moments just before and after the shooting occurred. He said he rushed to Dr. King’s side immediately, but got no response when he asked, ‘Doc, can you hear me?’”

Practically everyone—except, notably, the men who were there—assumed Jackson’s statements were true. However, the Reverend Ralph D. Abernathy, then vice-president and treasurer of SCLC, contemporaneously, and contemptuously, stated: “I am sure Reverend Jackson would not say to me that he cradled Dr. King. I am sure that Reverend Jackson would realize that I was the person on the balcony with Dr. King and did not leave his side until he was pronounced dead at St. Joseph’s Hospital in Memphis. I am sure that he would not say to me that he even came near Dr. King after Doc was shot.” (Italics in original, boldface and underline added.) [2]

Ralph Abernathy observed a heated argument between Dr. King and Jesse Jackson about the strategy for the Poor People’s Campaign. Abernathy said that during one of their strategy meetings, Dr. King became fed up with Jackson’s intransigence and walked out of the meeting, saying to Jackson on the way out: [3]

“Jesse, it may be necessary for you to carve your own individual niche in society. But don’t bother me. Don’t bother me . . . Then Martin Luther King was dead. What Jackson did after the assassination remains confused and controversial today.”

Moreover, reporter Dennis Farney, in his 1984 article cited above, noted a number of points that illustrate Jackson’s actions and the resulting confusion:

  • Hosea Williams, a top King aide, stated that “Andy (Young) and Ralph (Abernathy) came back from the hospital and said, ‘Martin is dead,’ and . . . it was no time before Jesse was down in that courtyard, holding a press conference.” [That occurred after Jackson had told all others not to talk to the press. Immediately thereafter, he left the scene without advising anyone else that he was headed for the airport];
  • Hosea Williams also said that “the only person who cradled Dr. King was Abernathy”;
  • While everyone else gathered together in prayers and somber reactions to the tragedy that night, not realizing that Jackson had disappeared, the next morning when they turned their televisions on, they were astonished to see him appearing on NBC’s Today Show, and again later that day addressing the Chicago City Council, still wearing the clothes stained with Dr. King’s blood;
  • “That was the start of a Jackson publicity juggernaut,” wrote Mr. Farney;
  • In the following months, Jackson would appear in Playboy and Time magazines, and subsequently his juggernaut would include hundreds, if not thousands, of others, sealing his position at the top of the list of U.S. civil rights leaders;
  • Chauncey Eskridge, attorney for Dr. King, stated: “If anyone could have gotten blood on their clothes, other than Abernathy, it must have come from the balcony after King’s body was removed. Jackson’s appearance at Chicago’s City Council with that blood on his shirt was not only deception, but sacrilege. The City Council meeting offered him a public forum to be seen and heard, and that was what prompted him to appear;”
  • The last man King spoke to was Solomon Jones, who would later say: “It’s a helluva thing to capitalize on a man’s death, especially one you professed to love;”
  • Andy Young, executive director of SCLC at the time, later mayor of Atlanta, Georgia congressman, and UN ambassador, stated that “the blood, the cradling, were all things I read in the newspaper and they are all mysteries to me;”
  • Ben Branch, leader of Operation Breadbasket’s band, said, “My guess is Jesse smeared the blood on his shirt after getting it off the balcony. But who knows where he got it from. All I can say is that Jesse didn’t touch him. I think that should answer it all.”

The Research of Dick Gregory and Steve Cokely

The late Chicago activist Steve Cokely, with the late well known entertainer Dick Gregory, made a number of video presentations about their findings after many years spent researching and interviewing witnesses. Within the video cited below[4], Cokely made a number of startling observations as he wove a story that connected numerous factual assertions. The five key conclusions of Steve Cokely’s lengthy research were:

  • That Jesse Jackson was acting as an FBI informant whose assignment as the designated on-site manager was to ensure that all of the plan’s arrangements were completed on schedule.
  • That Jackson was never close to King until the balcony scene where he decided that in the aftermath, when everyone else had left for the hospital, he would prove his closeness by wiping Dr. King’s blood all over his own sweater as proof, then repeatedly tell the lie about his closeness to the murdered martyr.
  • That in the immediate aftermath of the assassination—as traffic was closed down on the major roads and highways leading out of the city and to the airport—somehow Jesse Jackson was cleared to leave the city and board an airplane standing by for him to fly, apparently as the sole passenger, to Chicago.
  • That just twelve hours after the murder of Dr. King, Jackson appeared on NBC’s Today Show, emotionally announcing a series of lies about how Dr. King had “died in my arms,” that he had been beside him when he was shot, had cradled King’s head and “was the last person on earth” to have spoken with King.
  • That there could be only one reason why the FBI had treated him so specially, Cokely continued, was due to Jackson’s being the “chosen one” (his term) advanced by the FBI, presumably in exchange for favors received.

The mysterious choice of Jesse Jackson to act as Dr. King’s heir, it soon became apparent to Dick Gregory and Steve Cokely, was made—not by the SCLC leadership in Atlanta in the aftermath, but—by the FBI leadership in Washington, in the weeks and months before the mayhem in Memphis.

Gregory and Cokely also discovered that a white, Jewish man, a “fixer” named Don Rose, was put in charge of assisting Jackson to take the mantle left by Dr. King. They determined that it was Rose who cleared the path for him to leave Memphis, to be booked on the Today Show, to meet with the Chicago City Council later that day. Mayor Richard Daley convened an impromptu memorial service to commemorate Dr. King as a means to calm the anger of the African American population, who generally resided on the south side of the city. (Ibid.).

To many, it seemed that Mayor Daley—as well as many high-level politicians in Washington—spoke more kind and consoling words about Dr. King after his death than they had ever uttered about him while he was still alive.

In the same manner, the entire political establishment in Washington pretty much did the same thing, led, ironically, by Senator Robert Byrd (D-WV), the same man who had savaged Dr. King in a lengthy Senate speech on March 29, 1968, one week before he was murdered (an act he did to assist the FBI in ensuring King would appear in Memphis on April 4th, the day of his scheduled execution—as detailed in my book referenced above).

According to Wikipedia, “In June 2005, Byrd proposed an additional $10,000,000 in federal funding for the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial in Washington, D.C., remarking that, ‘With the passage of time, we have come to learn that his Dream was the American Dream, and few ever expressed it more eloquently’.”

Too bad for him, and more so Dr. King, that it took so long for Senator Byrd (who holds the record for having been in office for over 51 years, from 1959 until his death in 2010) to come to that realization.

Within my book, I closely examined the circumstances of that 2.500-word March 29th speech, and why they point toward the strong possibility that it was written even before Dr. King was murdered, by as much as six weeks, and that it was written by FBI scribes. It was just one of many newly discovered points that prove the accuracy of that book’s title, Who REALLY Killed Martin Luther King Jr., — The Case Against Lyndon Johnson and J. Edgar Hoover.


[1] Gentry, Curt, J. Edgar Hoover: The Man and The Secrets, p. 568; Sullivan, William C., The Bureau: My Thirty Years in Hoover’s FBI, p. 144

[2] Reynolds, Barbara A., Jesse Jackson: The Man, the Movement, the Myth, pp. 82-83

[3] Farney, Dennis, “What makes Jackson run? Fears that cut deep from his childhood,” Des Moines Register, January 6, 1984


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