Sunday, May 1, 2016

Rev. Billy Kyles dies

In early 1968, the Rev. Samuel Billy Kyles and another local minister beckoned the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. to Memphis to demonstrate support for a strike by 1,300 black city sanitation workers. The strikers were demanding a minimum 10-cents-an-hour wage increase, workplace safeguards and dignity. Their placards proclaimed, “I Am a Man.”

Dr. King was reluctant at first; he was preoccupied with his Poor People’s Campaign. But he came to see that the Memphis strike converged with his national agenda for economic equality and social justice, so he accepted.

After Dr. King arrived, Mr. Kyles invited him to a home-cooked soul food dinner. Aware that Dr. King was perennially tardy, Mr. Kyles promised to pick him up promptly at 5 p.m. at the black-run Lorraine Motel, where Dr. King was staying, in Room 306. The date was April 4.

But when Dr. King later phoned the Kyles home to confirm the invitation, he learned that the dinner would actually be at 6. So when Mr. Kyles arrived around 5, Dr. King procrastinated.

He and a lieutenant, the Rev. Ralph David Abernathy, remained in the room with Mr. Kyles and enjoyed almost an hour of what Mr. Kyles later described as “preacher talk.”

Before they left, Mr. Kyles picked out a necktie for Dr. King to wear to dinner.
When they finally emerged from the room, on a second-floor balcony, Dr. King was gunned down by a sniper from across the street.

Mr. Kyles died on Tuesday, at 81, in a Memphis hospital. He was the last surviving witness to that motel-room conversation (Mr. Abernathy died in 1990) and, from the balcony, to Dr. King’s assassination.

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“A lot of people claimed to have been on the balcony when Dr. King was shot down,” Mr. Kyles said.

Why had he been there? He often asked himself that question, he said.

“Over the years, God revealed to me why I was there,” he said. “Crucifixions have to have witnesses.”

Mr. Kyles vividly recalled that evening in the documentary film “The Witness: From the Balcony of Room 306,” which was nominated for an Oscar in 2009, and in an interview for a publication put out by the Funders’ Network, a group of grant makers.

He remembered emerging from the room with Dr. King at about 5:45. Hoping to keep the 6 p.m. dinner appointment, Mr. Kyles was trying to hurry him to a white Cadillac, borrowed from a local funeral home, that was waiting for them in the courtyard below.
“You’re not dressed for dinner,” Dr. King yelled down to another aide, the Rev. Jesse L. Jackson. From the courtyard Mr. Jackson introduced Dr. King to Ben Branch, a local bandleader. (Andrew Young and Hosea Williams were also part of the entourage.)

Dr. King was talking to Mr. Branch over the balcony railing when a single rifle shot — “kuh-PIE-yah!” was how Mr. Kyles described the sound — reverberated from across the street.

“I thought I was having a nightmare, but the nightmare was that I was awake,” Mr. Kyle said. “And then we looked, and there was blood. So much blood.”

Mr. Kyles dashed back into the room to summon an ambulance, but the motel’s telephone operator, alarmed by the shooting, had left her switchboard and run outside. The woman, who was the motel owner’s wife, had a heart attack in the courtyard and died a few days later.

Mr. Kyles covered Dr. King’s body with a bedspread, up to the knot of the necktie he had chosen. He instinctively removed a crushed Salem cigarette, mindful that Dr. King had been self-conscious about smoking and worried that young people might discover his vice.

Dr. King’s murder shocked the world, provoked riots in many of the nation’s cities and devastated Memphis emotionally. It also galvanized the sanitation workers and their supporters. On April 8, tens of thousands of demonstrators silently marched to honor Dr. King’s memory.
A week later, the city agreed to certify the union, safeguard sanitation workers and guarantee higher pay.

That May, caravans of protesters converged on Washington for Dr. King’s Poor People’s Campaign for economic justice.

“That’s where the witness comes in,” Mr. Kyles said. “Yes, you can kill the dreamer. Absolutely, you can kill the dreamer. But you cannot kill the dream.”

Mr. Kyles was born in Shelby, Miss., a Delta town, on Sept. 26, 1934, to the Rev. Joseph Henry Kyles and the former Ludie Cameron. He was named for the prophet Samuel, but after his mother saw him baptizing neighborhood pets and memorializing dead birds, she began calling him Billy, after the evangelist Billy Sunday.

The family moved to Chicago when he was 6, and he attended Northern Seminary. He started preaching when he was 17 and singing even before that. (Aretha Franklin once said that her version of the gospel song “Never Grow Old” was inspired by Mr. Kyles’s.)

When he decided to return to the South, his brothers scoffed.

“You’re in the promised land,” he recalled them saying.

“Here you are going back to Egypt, to Memphis.”

He settled in Memphis, a segregated city, in 1959 and became the founding pastor of Monumental Baptist Church. In perhaps a foreshadowing of Dr. King’s visit in 1968, he met with the civil rights leader Medgar Evers five years earlier at Evers’s Mississippi home shortly before Evers was murdered in his front yard.

Mr. Kyles became a central figure in Memphis’s struggle for civil rights. In 1961, his daughter Dwania was one of 13 black first graders to integrate Memphis public schools. “We did not want to make the mistake that Little Rock had made and send high schoolers,” he said, referring to the hostile reaction to a similar integration effort in Arkansas in 1957 that compelled President Dwight D. Eisenhower to send in federal troops .

He was later arrested for refusing to sit in the back of a segregated city bus. Faced with the threat of a bus boycott, the city desegregated its buses in 1964.

Mr. Kyles was instrumental in the largely peaceful integration of restaurants and other public places in Memphis and the elimination of a system of runoff elections, which impeded minority candidates. (Eliminating the runoff helped elect the city’s first black mayor, Willie W. Herenton, in 1991.) He also formed a chapter of Mr. Jackson’s civil rights organization Operation PUSH (People United to Save Humanity) and was later a board member of the National Civil Rights Museum, established at the site of Dr. King’s assassination.

“He was a founding father of the New Memphis and the New South,” Mr. Jackson said at a tribute to Mr. Kyles this month at the church he led for 55 years until he retired in 2014.

In addition to his wife, the former Aurelia Kennedy, who confirmed his death, Mr. Kyles is survived by their daughter, Epernay; four children from a previous marriage, to the former Gwendolyn Hart — his daughters Dwania and Drusheena and sons Dwain and Devin — and five grandchildren.

Mr. Kyles recalled that Dr. King, during his final hours in Memphis, had left a deep impression.

The night before his assassination, at a local church, Dr. King delivered his ringing “I’ve been to the mountaintop” speech, in which he expressed premonitions of his death.

“I’ve seen the Promised Land,” he said. “I may not get there with you. But I want you to know tonight that we, as a people, will get to the Promised Land.”

Dr. King had predicted that he would not live past 40. When he died the next evening, he was 39.

“I look at Martin’s picture, and he’s the only one who didn’t get old,” Mr. Kyles said. “But what a price to pay for not getting old.”

Sunday, August 23, 2015

So, the CIA has this LNERGO person who reported on Ray's aliases

This is document #104-10072-10034. Some material, like this document got released with the JFK material. So, my question for now is who or what is an LNERGO official? LNERGO may have been a CIA cryptonym for the FBI. If you click on this image you should be able to see it better. I found a few interesting documents relating to the Dr. King assassination and will post more this week.

Friday, November 14, 2014

Thursday, November 13, 2014

I recommend Tavis Smiley's "Death of a King"

Tavis Smiley examines the last year of Dr. King's life. 

The Suicide letter

The New York Times had a story on the "Suicide Letter" that the FBI sent to him.

What an Uncensored Letter to MLK reveals.

The note is just a single sheet gone yellow with age, typewritten and tightly spaced. It’s rife with typos and misspellings and sprinkled with attempts at emending them. Clearly, some effort went into perfecting the tone, that of a disappointed admirer, appalled by the discovery of “hidious [sic] abnormalities” in someone he once viewed as “a man of character.”

The word “evil” makes six appearances in the text, beginning with an accusation: “You are a colossal fraud and an evil, vicious one at that.” In the paragraphs that follow, the recipient’s alleged lovers get the worst of it. They are described as “filthy dirty evil companions” and “evil playmates,” all engaged in “dirt, filth, evil and moronic talk.” The effect is at once grotesque and hypnotic, an obsessive’s account of carnal rage and personal betrayal. “What incredible evilness,” the letter proclaims, listing off “sexual orgies,” “adulterous acts” and “immoral conduct.” Near the end, it circles back to its initial target, denouncing him as an “evil, abnormal beast.”

The unnamed author suggests intimate knowledge of his correspondent’s sex life, identifying one possible lover by name and claiming to have specific evidence about others. Another passage hints of an audiotape accompanying the letter, apparently a recording of “immoral conduct” in action. “Lend your sexually psychotic ear to the enclosure,” the letter demands. It concludes with a deadline of 34 days “before your filthy, abnormal fraudulent self is bared to the nation.”

“There is only one thing left for you to do,” the author warns vaguely in the final paragraph. “You know what it is.”

When the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. received this letter, nearly 50 years ago, he quietly informed friends that someone wanted him to kill himself — and he thought he knew who that someone was. Despite its half-baked prose, self-conscious amateurism and other attempts at misdirection, King was certain the letter had come from the F.B.I. Its infamous director, J. Edgar Hoover, made no secret of his desire to see King discredited. A little more than a decade later, the Senate’s Church Committee on intelligence overreach confirmed King’s suspicion.

Since then, the so-called “suicide letter” has occupied a unique place in the history of American intelligence — the most notorious and embarrassing example of Hoover’s F.B.I. run amok. For several decades, however, only significantly redacted copies of the letter were available for public scrutiny. This summer, while researching a biography of Hoover, I was surprised to find a full, uncensored version of the letter tucked away in a reprocessed set of his official and confidential files at the National Archives. The uncovered passages contain explicit allegations about King’s sex life, rendered in the racially charged language of the Jim Crow era. Looking past the viciousness of the accusations, the letter offers a potent warning for readers today about the danger of domestic surveillance in an age with less reserved mass media.

The F.B.I.'s entanglement with King began not as an inquiry into his sex life but as a “National security” matter, one step removed from King himself. In 1961, the bureau learned that a former Communist Party insider named Stanley Levison had become King’s closest white adviser, serving him as a ghostwriter and fund-raiser.  The following year, Attorney General Robert Kennedy approved wiretaps on Levison’s home and office, and the White House advised King to drop his Communist friend. But thanks to their surveillance, the bureau quickly learned that King was still speaking with Levison. Around the same time, King began to criticize bureau practices in the South, accusing Hoover of failing to enforce civil rights law and of indulging the racist practices of Southern policeman.

This combination of events set Hoover and King on a collision course. In the fall of 1963, just after  the March on Washington, the F.B.I. extended its surveillance from Levison and other associates to  King himself, planting wiretaps in King’s home and offices and bugs in his hotel rooms. Hoover found out very little about any Communist subterfuge, but he did begin to learn about King’s extramarital sex life, already an open secret within the civil rights movement’s leadership.

Hoover and the Feds seem to have been genuinely shocked by King’s behavior. Here was a minister, the leader of a moral movement, acting like “a tom cat with obsessive degenerate sexual urges,”  Hoover wrote on one memo. In response, F.B.I. officials began to peddle information about King’s hotel-room activities to friendly members of the press, hoping to discredit the civil rights leader. To their astonishment, the story went nowhere. If anything, as the F.B.I. learned more about his sexual adventures, King only seemed to be gaining in public stature. In 1964, the Civil Rights Act passed Congress, and just a few months later King became the youngest man ever to be  awarded the Nobel Peace Prize.

At this point Hoover decided to escalate his campaign. On Nov. 18, 1964 — 50 years ago this week  — Hoover denounced King at a Washington news conference, labeling him the “the most notorious liar in the country.” A few days later, one of Hoover’s deputies, William Sullivan, apparently took it upon himself to write the anonymous letter and sent an agent to Miami, to mail the package to Atlanta.

Even now, looking at a full copy of the letter, it’s tough to puzzle out just what the bureau wanted King to do. The largest unredacted section focuses on King’s sex life, recounting in graphic language what the bureau believed it knew. Another uncovered portion of the note praises “older leaders” like the N.A.A.C.P. executive director Roy Wilkins, urging King to step aside and let other men lead the civil rights movement. And some maintain that they simply meant to push King out, not induce suicide.

Whatever it was the F.B.I. hoped King would do, they probably preferred it to happen before the Nobel ceremony, scheduled for mid-December. But King did not even see the package until after his trip to Oslo. According to his biographer David Garrow, it was King’s wife, Coretta, who first opened it, expecting to find a recording of one of her husband’s speeches. She turned the contents over to King, who assembled a group of confidants to sort out a response. As King’s closest friends and associates recalled, everyone immediately agreed the letter could only be the work of one institution: Hoover’s F.B.I.

Today it is almost impossible to imagine the press refusing a juicy story. To a scandal-hungry media,  the bedroom practices of our public officials and moral leaders are usually fair game. And a sex scandal is often — though not always — a cheap one-way ticket out of public life. Faced with today’s political environment, perhaps King would have made different decisions in his personal affairs. Perhaps, though, he never would have had the chance to emerge as the public leader he  ultimately became.

Luckily, in 1964 the media were far more cautious. One oddity of Hoover’s campaign against King is  that it mostly flopped, and the F.B.I. never succeeded in seriously damaging King’s public image.  Half a century later, we look upon King as a model of moral courage and human dignity. Hoover, by  contrast, has become almost universally reviled. in this context, perhaps the most surprising aspect of  their story is not what the F.B.I. attempted, but what it failed to do.

The current F.B.I. director, James Comey, keeps a copy of the King wiretap request on his desk as a  reminder of the bureau’s capacity to do wrong. But elsewhere in Washington, the debate over how much the government should know about our private lives has never been more heated: Should intelligence agencies be able to sweep our email, read our texts, track our phone calls, locate us by GPS? Much of the conversation swirls around the possibility that agencies like the N.S.A. or the F.B.I. will use such information not to serve national security but to carry out personal and political vendettas. King’s experience reminds us that these are far from idle fears, conjured in the fevered minds of civil libertarians. They are based in the hard facts of history.

Sunday, May 11, 2014

So, what is Gerald Posner up to these days?

According to this site, he's a lawyer and PR agent for Afghan president Karzai's brother, Mahmood, and he does the same for President Karzai's other two brothers, Ahmed Wali and Qayum.

This article is noteworthy for rebutting Posner's book on the MLK assassination.

It provides a photo of the heavy brush in the backyard of Bessie Brewer's boarding house.  This wild growth of brush was cut down very early in the morning of the day after Dr. King was assassinated.

This photo was taken immediately after the assassination and shows a surprising number of people, two of whom see to be running away from the scene.  Unfortunately, the link to the Department of Justice website  where this photo came from is no longer working.