New Perspective on King Assassination

Dr. Martin Luther King, Civil Rights March
Dr. Martin Luther King, Civil Rights March Photo Credit: Rowland Scherman / Wikimedia (CC 0 Public Domain)
Reading Time: 2 minutes

Stuart Wexler and Larry Hancock’s mini e-book, Killing King, on various attempts at assassinating Martin Luther King, does a good job of reporting on the tight KKK/Southern law enforcement network that pretty much committed every major regional bombing and assassination of civil rights activists (and of small children in the infamous 1963 bombing of a church in Birmingham, AL.)

But within the text lies buried a potentially potent lead into more fertile territory. Col. William Potter Gale, about whom the authors write in passing, was more than a fruitcake wing nut. He had important ties that give the King shooting a whole new context.

According to his obituary, after leaving the military, Gale went on to join, head or found some key extreme right-wing entities, including the paramilitary wing of the Christian Defense League. The book situates Gale, who believed Dr. King controlled by a satanic Jewish conspiracy, in the middle of a group of far right, religious extremists along with JB Stoner and the Venable family, a major familial link to the southern Klan.

But first, he was an aide to General Douglas MacArthur in the Philippines during World War II, serving as an intelligence officer.

The head of intelligence for MacArthur in several theaters, including the Philippines and later Korea, was Col. (later General) Charles Willoughby. He is a somewhat mysterious figure, thought to have been born in Germany and to have changed his name in America.

Before the war, Willoughby was a public sympathizer of both Mussolini and Franco. He was given an award by Mussolini’s government in the 1920s — the order of Saints Maurice and Lazarus. During the Second World War, he was investigated for pro-Nazi sympathies. MacArthur affectionately called him “my little fascist.” Willoughby’s loyalties and calculations were always suspect; he faced heavy criticism by other military leaders (and the author David Halberstam) for poor intelligence preparations during the Yalu River debacle in Korea.

After the Korean war, Willoughby became a lobbyist for Franco and Spain. He worked with the famed Dallas oil billionaire and right-wing funder and firebrand H.L. Hunt on the Committee for the Defense of Christian Culture, an anti-Communist and anti-civil rights group. Willoughby’s beliefs, activities and networks have drawn the attention of those looking at the authorship of the assassination of John F. Kennedy. (For more on Willoughby, see Dick Russell’s book The Man Who Knew Too Much.)

The question then, is this: was Gale just a loose cannon, or did his links to this network of powerful, connected and wealthy extremists mean there was more to the Martin Luther King assassination than just some low level miscreants?

Much more research needs to be done.

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