Martin Luther King Jr.’s children return to court over his Bible and Nobel Prize
ATLANTA — The children of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. will be in an Atlanta court Tuesday in the latest chapter of an ugly legal fight pitting the two brothers against their sister.
At issue: control over two precious items that belonged to their father, his Bible and his Nobel Peace Prize.
Bernice King contends her brothers aim to sell them, something she robustly opposes.
Dexter King and Martin Luther King III succeeded last year in getting Bernice King to hand over the relics.
Since then, they’ve been in a safe deposit box and, in a sign of how contentious the fight has been, only a judge has a key.
Fulton County Superior Court Judge Robert McBurney could soon decide which side will ultimately control the items.
The Bible, which King took on the road with him, was used to swear in President Barack Obama for his second term. The Peace Prize King received in 1964 was for his “nonviolent campaign against racism.” King’s acceptance of that prize is the opening scene in the critically acclaimed civil rights film “Selma.”
That image: of a civil rights icon being recognized for his work stands sharply at odds with the public fight between the siblings. Something Bernice King herself has noted, calling it “an embarrassing chapter in our family’s history.”
Before the case ended up in a courtroom, the siblings held a vote to determine if they should sell the items. The three make up the board of the King Estate. The brothers say that the future of the estate would be threatened if a sale could not be made. They both voted to sell, Bernice voted against.
No prospective buyers or dollar amount have been publicly disclosed.
In 2006 the estate put King’s papers on the auction block. But before the planned sale at Sotheby’s could go forward a group of anonymous buyers stepped in. The group paid an “undisclosed amount” for the 10,000 manuscripts and books, including drafts of his “I Have a Dream” speech. The collection, which had been expected to go for as much as $30 million, is now housed at Morehouse College in Atlanta.
Two years later Bernice and Martin filed suit against Dexter. They accused him of converting “substantial funds from the estate’s financial account at Bank of America” for his own use. The case was later settled.