THE world had hardly learned of Martin Luther King's murder in Memphis before speculation began that the civil rights leader had been the victim of a well-planned conspiracy. The rumor mills were lubricated in part by the assiduously cultivated doubts that some still entertain about the killing of John F. Kennedy. In this case, however, the conspiracy theorists could point to the fact that, though the gunman was clearly identified, he remained —for all the far-flung resources of the FBI—mysteriously at large.

While the hows and whys of the murder continued to elude the...

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