By Jerry Mitchell
ABOVE PHOTO: Rev. Martin Luther King.
(World Telegram & Sun photo by Dick DeMarsico)
More evidence is emerging that confirms the White Knights of the Ku Klux Klan in Mississippi offered a $100,000 bounty for the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr.
Authors Stuart Wexler and Larry Hancock detail the evidence in their new book, The Awful Grace of God: Religious Terrorism, White Supremacy and the Unsolved Murder of Martin Luther King Jr.
The White Knights, led by Imperial Wizard Sam Bowers, indeed wanted King dead and had plotted several times to do it — only to fail.
In 1964, the White Knights supposedly offered future Dixie Mafia member Donald Eugene Sparks $13,000 to shoot King, but the plan fell through.
In their research, the authors tracked down a man who had told the FBI about the White Knights$100,000 bounty — Donald Nissen, a former inmate at the Leavenworth penitentiary in Kansas.
In his first press interview, Nissen said he worked side by side with fellow inmate Leroy McManaman, whom the authors say knew Sparks.
“He was a career criminal, and I guess I was, too,” said Nissen.
Aware that Nissen would soon get out of prison and return to Atlanta, McManaman approached his fellow worker.
Nissen said McManaman asked him to plot King’s movements when he returned to Atlanta. The inmate also mentioned a $100,000 bounty to kill King.
(FBI documents confirm that word of a bounty also made it to the Missouri prison where James Earl Ray was held prior to his escape.)
Nissen listened but never agreed to do anything, he said. “When I got to Atlanta, I let it all slide.”
But when Floyd Ayers — who had ties to Klan leader James Venable and who later reportedly abducted King’s father — asked him to deliver a package to Jackson, Miss., he agreed.
He delivered the package to an office in Jackson, he said. (In their book, the authors detail lines of evidence corroborating McNamanaman’s ties to the delivery.)
At the time, Nissen said he had no knowledge of the contents of the package, but Ayers later told him it contained the $100,000 bounty to kill King.
After being accused of being a snitch to the FBI, Nissen was pulling into the apartments when someone shot out the windows in his Mustang while he was inside. “I decided, that’s it,” he said.
He fled the state and after a manhunt, he turned himself in and spoke with agents.
On April 4, 1968, the civil rights leader was assassinated in Memphis.
At some point after the killing, Nissen said he spoke with King’s father and ended up sharing what he knew with a detective.
What he witnessed convinced him the White Knights played a role in King’s killing, said Nissen, who has since turned his life around and continues to work with a prison ministry. “I think they were involved in it, right up to their necks.”