He was, without any doubt, one of America’s greatest heroes. A brave, eloquent and inspiring man whose stirring speeches still resonate powerfully today.
No wonder, on the 50th anniversary of the famous March on Washington at which he made his I Have A Dream speech, the U.S. President and former presidents — Barack Obama, Bill Clinton and Jimmy Carter — gathered this week to pay tribute to Martin Luther King.
But Washington didn’t always feel that way about the Baptist preacher and civil rights leader from Atlanta, Georgia.
Driven by FBI chief J. Edgar Hoover’s mistaken conviction that King was a dangerous Communist, federal agents bugged his hotel rooms. What they found, and tried to use against him in a poisonous blackmail campaign, was not evidence of Communism but of serial adultery.
Leading one of the most astonishing double lives in history, King was not just the Bible-thumping champion of the rights of man, but also an inveterate womaniser who cheated on his wife throughout their marriage.
King’s secret sex life became such a talking point at the White House that recently released interviews with Jackie Kennedy revealed even she knew about it.
Jackie confided how her brother-in-law Bobby Kennedy had told her the FBI had recorded King trying to arrange a sex party on the night before the March on Washington in August 1963.
‘I can’t see a picture of Martin Luther King without thinking, you know, that man’s terrible,’ sniffed the former First Lady. Bobby had told her that King ‘was calling up all these girls and arranging for a party of men and women, I mean, sort of an orgy’.
That King was a sex addict — though probably no worse than Mrs Kennedy’s husband, JFK — has long been a source of embarrassment in an America that effectively declared him a saint.
Though it is beyond question that King was charismatic, tireless and courageous, it is also indisputably true that this brilliant man had a seamier side, as one of Dr King’s closest associates confirmed.