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Researcher Reopens Issue of FBI’s Effort to Discredit Martin Luther King

The Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial in Washington. A new essay explains FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover's effort to discredit the civil rights leader. (Carolyn Kaster/AP Photo)
The Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial in Washington. A new essay explains FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover’s effort to discredit the civil rights leader. (Carolyn Kaster/AP Photo)

 

(Los Angeles Times) – Nearly 50 years ago, a series of events involving sex, official corruption and a most unlikely ending began unraveling in Washington. It was plot that makes anything seen on the fervid television series “Scandal” look tame.

The protagonists were two men who helped define the age’s unceasing conflict. On one side was FBI chief J. Edgar Hoover, who was still riding high as the unfettered guardian of the political establishment. On the other was Martin Luther King Jr., the voice of peaceful dissent, whose tone was growing ever louder as demands for equality were only slowly acknowledged.

Now more explicit details contained in the “suicide letter” — so named for its suggestion that King kill himself — show the level of antipathy Hoover had for the civil rights leader and how far he was willing to go in his smear campaign.

On Nov. 18, 1964, Hoover told reporters King was the “most notorious liar in the country” for daring to suggest that the nation’s premier law enforcement agency was less than effective in protecting those fighting Jim Crow racism in the South.

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