Son of Dr. King's best friend reacts to newly found interview with James Earl Ray

by: Mark Winne Updated:

James Earl Ray

ATLANTA,None - The Rev. Ralph David Abernathy III says he remembers the time in the mid-80s when his father posed questions to the man who pleaded guilty to murdering his best friend, Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

But he had never actually seen the interview until a Channel 2 Action News crew showed it to him.

Now-retired Tennessee reporter Jim Gilchrist says in an interview at West Hunter Street Baptist Church in Atlanta in November, 1985, he enlisted Dr. Ralph David Abernathy Sr. to ask questions of James Earl Ray, who tried unsuccessfully for years to take back his guilty plea. Gilchrist says in January, 1986, he played the questions on a video monitor for Ray inside Ray’s cell as part of an interview with Ray which had never aired until excerpts were broadcast this week on Channel 2 Action News in Atlanta.

Abernathy said when he now thinks of his father and Dr. King, he thinks often of Mark 6:7, which talks about Jesus sending his disciples out, two by two, with power over unclean spirits.

He said the way he watched his father question Ray made him proud, and that it was the kind of thing a best friend should do.
Abernathy said his interview with Winne came just days after his son, Ralph David Abernathy IV, of the University of Cincinnati Bearcats, returned a kick for the go-ahead score in the appropriately named Liberty Bowl in Memphis.


Ralph David III noted it was a triumphant return for the Abernathys to the city where, decades earlier, his father suffered one of his greatest losses as he cradled his dying best friend, Dr. King.

Winne's report also features an interview with Bob Fay, who in the 70s and 80s worked some of the biggest corruption and white-collar cases in the FBI's Atlanta Field Office, some of them as a supervisor.

Fay recounted how in 1968, he was a young agent, part of an army of "G-Men," short for "government men," digging into every aspect of Ray's background.

Fay made a compelling case for the thoroughness of the investigation and for why he believes the Bureau would have uncovered a conspiracy, had it existed.

Differing views on conspiracy theories are another focus of Winne's second installment on Channel 2 Action News at 5.