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Nashville Funeral Planned for Ray

April 27, 1998

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) _ The brother of the late James Earl Ray would like to have a funeral for the convicted assassin of Martin Luther King Jr. in about three weeks _ one open to everyone, including King’s family.

Jerry Ray, 62, said the three-week delay is to make sure his brother’s pastor, the Rev. James Lawson, will be available to officiate.

``It will be a memorial to James to show he’s done 30 years for a crime that he didn’t commit,″ he said Sunday.

The Rays discussed having the funeral at the church in Memphis where Ray’s pastor used to officiate. But Jerry Ray said he decided to hold the funeral in Nashville, where his 70-year-old brother died Thursday from liver disease.

Jerry Ray said he hopes King’s relatives, who backed efforts to win a trial for his brother, will attend.

Dexter Scott King, younger son of the slain civil rights leader, said the family does not know yet whether it will be able to make it, because of a busy schedule.

``We’re still considering the request,″ King was quoted as saying in The Atlanta Journal-Constitution today.

Lawson invited King to speak to striking sanitation workers in Memphis in 1968. It was on that trip that King was shot on the balcony of the Lorraine Motel. Lawson is among those who believe Ray was innocent or acted with help from others.

Lawson met Ray in the mid-1970s and later became his pastor, often visiting and later presiding over Ray’s prison marriage. He is now pastor of Holman United Methodist Church in Los Angeles.

Though he pleaded guilty to killing King and avoided the death penalty, James Earl Ray recanted. For almost 30 years he maintained his claims of innocence.

Ray’s body is to be cremated. Jerry Ray says his brother’s remains will be flown to Ireland, where his ancestors were from.

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