In 1967, Betty Spates was a just another 17-yr old black teen who had come up to Memphis from Mississippi. She was one generation removed from the demeaning sharecropping system of the Jim Crow South. She was poor, mostly illiterate but perhaps, blossoming in woman hood. She began a live in relationship with an unknown white man in Memphis. Apparently the relationship taboo as it was for the era, was not enough to sustain her financially. So she and her other 2 sisters, also up from Mississippi, applied for a job at Jim’s Bar and Grill on Main Street in Memphis. The bar was close to a black owned establishment known as the Lorraine Motel. The area was known to be kinda seedy with hoes frequenting the area on a regular basis. Betty and her 2 sisters turned in their applications to the 41-yr old married white owner of the bar, Loyd Jowers. Jowers reviewed the applications of the 3 women. He shuffled through the 1st 2 applications before turning to say to Betty” you’re too young to work here!” Jowers later hired Betty and at least one of her other sisters. Her sister Bobbie became a cook while Betty became a waitress.
Even though she was only 17, Jowers concluded that he would not be cited for hiring Betty to work at the bar because of her age. While he may have had reservations about her age when it came to working at the bar, he held no such hesitation when it came to spreading her legs. The married 41-yr old Jowers began an affair with Betty that lasted during her employment at the bar. It is unclear what their relationship was like. What was clear was that beyond all doubt, she was loyal to Loyd.
While he owned the bar, Loyd was degenerate gambler and was always in debt. One of his debtors was Frank Lamberto, the Boss of the Dixie Mafia (Mafia in the south). Loyd was known to have a wandering eye. He was also known to fool around with the hoes that worked the block around the bar. So on the evening of April 4, 1968, when Betty noticed the kitchen door was closed, she simply thought that Loyd was outside and in back of the bar fooling around with the hoes again. She walked toward the door and heard a pop that sounded like a car backfiring. She continued toward the back door and found it open. Seconds later, her lover came racing inside. He face was as white as a sheet. His trousers were muddy at the knees. He was holding a smoking rifle. He quickly began to break down the smoking rifle. When he noticed that she was looking at him, he asked nervously: “now Betty you wouldn’t do anything to hurt me would you?” “No! Loyd” She nervously replied.
It wasn’t until days later that she (Betty) began to have a clue as to what happened. When they announced that Dr. Martin Luther King Jr had been assassinated, she quietly surmised that her married lover was the shooter. Nearly a quarter of a century passed before Betty would re-tell this story to a New York attorney living in England. Why did she keep quiet? Well, for a lot of reasons. One was that she didn’t know that whole story. She had falsely believed that her lover was the killer. He was not. He had received $100,000 and forgiveness of a gambling debt to contract a hit man to kill King. The killer was in fact a sharpshooter, and a racist Memphis Police Officer. Betty was not privy to the debt or the contract her lover made to Kill Dr. King. So she kept this secret until 1992 when it was pried from her soul by Attorney William Pepper.
Pepper was investigating the King murder when he discovered this peculiar eye witness. He was also the King Family Attorney. She told him (Pepper) that she remained quiet out of loyalty to Loyd. It should be noted that her “lover” would later send 2 men to her home sometime later to threaten her to keep her mouth shut. Nevertheless in 1999, The King Family sued Jowers and the U.S. Government in a wrongful death action for the murder of Martin Luther King Jr. In a trial that took 30 days with 70 witnesses, Pepper uncovered a plot that included The FBI, Military Intelligence, Organized Crime & The Memphis Police Department. The Jury came back with a verdict in 59 mins. The found that there was a conspiracy to kill Dr. King. They also held that Loyd Jowers was part of that conspiracy and awarded the King Family $100.00. For the King family, it wasn’t about money so much as it was confirmation of what they always knew.
Exactly 6 months before his 74th birthday, Loyd Jowers gave up the ghost and deposited his putrid flesh back into the depths of the earth. His motive in coming clean was to cleanse his guilty conscience before he met his maker. That’s the interesting thing about these bigoted scumbags. No matter how cruel and malevolent they are in the summer and spring years of their lives, they have an uncanny tendency to believe in a just God. Therefore, the seek forgiveness for all of the unforgivable abominations they committed when they were full of piss and vinegar.
But what does one make of Betty Spates? What is her role in these horrific affairs? Other than being Jowers’ side piece and hiding this secret, apparently, nothing. Her whereabouts are unknown. Maybe she’s still in Memphis. Maybe she moved to another urban area. But you can’t help but wonder what this woman would say to her grandchildren about her past. Perhaps she has no shame. What we do know was what she said in an interview with the Los Angeles Times. She is quoted as saying that she was “living with a white man” and had already had her freedom.” (See Interview http://articles.latimes.com/1994-09-24/news/mn-42424_1_james-earl-ray/2) It appears that to her, Dr. King was simply irrelevant background noise with no real meaning to her life. Risking his life to ensure the protection of her humanity was not her definition of freedom. According to her interview, it was living and being with a white man.
It doesn’t matter that Betty Spates was sleeping with a white man. It doesn’t even matter that he was married. Nor does it matter that he was a degenerate gambler who could offer her nothing but a low paying job and his penis. What does matter is that this woman helped concealed one of the most horrific murders of the 20th century to protect a man that wasn’t even hers.
Tony Maceo is a Senior Blogger @ the Negromanosphere he is also the Chief Blogger at Power and Strategy.com. For more articles go to power and strategy.com. Like, share and subscribe to the mailing list, the You Tube Channel or the FB page. Till Next time, I’ll holla!