A guard who allegedly either was reading or "looked the other way" when James Earl Ray and five companions went over the wall at Brushy Mountain State Prison was fired yesterday for negligence.

Floyd Hooks, 38, was in the tower closest to the section the convicts scaled last Friday night. He refused to comment on his firing or say whether he would appeal. "Right now, I don't care to talk about that," he said.

Hooks "primary responsibility is to keep an eye on wall and see that nobody gets within 10 feet of it," said Corrections Commissioner C. Murray Henderson.

"I know some people who said he was reading. Others said he looked the other way the whole time. Hooks said he was paying attention to the yard but the evidence is overwhelming that he looked the other way. How can seven men get across the wall if you are paying attention. The evidence just doesn't weigh out," Henderson said.

Although seven inmates made the escape attempt, only six got away; the seventh was stopped by gunfire. All were recaptured.

Henderson said Hicks "did not start shooting until a guard further away started shooting. This escape lasted over 10 to 12 minutes at least. Surely he could have looked over there at one time or another."

Ray, serving a 99-year term for the 1968 murder of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., apparently was the ringleader of the break, Henderson said.