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James Earl Ray: Timeline

Here is a list of key dates in the life of James Earl Ray as compiled by The Tennessean:

  • March 10, 1928: James Earl Ray is born in Alton, Ill.
  • December 1948: Ray leaves the Army with a general discharge.
  • December 1949: Ray arrested for first time on a burglary charge in California, serves three months.

  • April 1967: Ray escapes from Missouri State Prison, where he's serving 20 years for armed robbery.
  • April 4, 1968: The Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. is assassinated on the balcony of the Lorraine Motel in Memphis.
  • June 8, 1968: Ray is arrested at London's Heathrow Airport.
  • March 10, 1969: Ray pleads guilty to murdering King and is sentenced to 99 years in prison.
  • March 13, 1969: Ray recants.

  • June 10, 1977: Ray escapes from Brushy Mountain State Prison with five other inmates.
  • June 13, 1977: Ray recaptured.
  • Aug. 16, 1978: Ray testifies before the House Select Committee on Assassinations.
  • Oct. 13, 1978: Ray and courtroom artist Anna Sandhu marry.
  • Dec. 30, 1978: The committee concludes that Ray acted alone but there was circumstantial evidence of a conspiracy.

  • Aug. 10, 1979: The Revs. Jesse Jackson and James Lawson meet with Ray and his attorney, Mark Lane, for 2-1/2 hours and conclude they do not believe Ray killed King.
  • Nov. 9, 1979: Ray escapes again from Brushy Mountain and recaptured the same day.
  • June 4, 1981: Ray is stabbed by black inmates.
  • June 17, 1981: Ray is transferred to the Tennessee State Penitentiary in Nashville for his safety.
  • Nov. 25, 1991: Ray's book, Who Killed Martin Luther King? The True Story of a Convicted Assassin, goes on sale.
  • March 3, 1993: Ray is granted a divorce from his wife of 14 years.
  • April 4, 1993: A mock jury acquits Ray in Guilt or Innocence: The Trial of James Earl Ray, a production televised by HBO.
  • May 6, 1993: Gov. Ned McWherter turns down a request by Ray's attorney William Pepper that Ray be exonerated and the investigation into King's death be reopened.
  • December 1993: Former Memphis restaurateur Loyd Jowers says he paid laborer Frank Holt to shoot King. Jowers says he was paid "a large sum of money" by Memphis producer dealer Frank C. Liberto to find someone to kill King.
  • January 1994: Ray's lawyers try to overturn his murder conviction on the basis of "newly discovered evidence" of a plot to kill King., but Shelby County prosecutors say the new evidence was too late.
  • May 1994: The parole board refuses Ray's parole request and tells him to renew it again in 5 years.
  • October 1994: Ray sues state Board of Paroles, charging members conspired with unnamed state and federal officials to keep him in prison.
  • May 1995: The state Supreme Court denies Ray's appeal of a 1994 Criminal Appeals ruling to test-fire the murder weapon and examine other evidence. The appellate court ruled Ray has exhausted his lega remedies, and that test-firing the weapon would endanger evidence.
  • December 1996: Prison officials transfer Ray from Lois DeBerry Special Needs Facility to Columbia Nashville Memorial Hospital for treatment for liver failure, beginning a series of trips to the hospital.
  • February 1997: King family supports Ray's effort to get a new trial. King's son Dexter says he thinks there was a conspiracy to kill his father, and that Ray did not act alone. Ray also wins a first step toward getting a trial.
  • March 1997: In a meeting, Ray tells King's son Dexter that he did not kill the civil rights leader. King says he believes Ray.
  • May 14, 1997: The testing of Ray's rifle begins.
  • May 24, 1997: Prison officials reject Ray's request to be evaluated at a Pittsburgh hospital as a liver transplant recipient.

  • June 9, 1997: Davidson County Chancellor Irvin Kilcrease rules that state law does not permit Ray to be sent out of state to be evaluated for a liver transplant.
  • April 23, 1998: James Earl Ray dies of cirrhosis of the liver at age 70 in a Nashville prison facility.

    ©1998 CBS Worldwide Corp. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report

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