The civil rights leader's children are suing one another over their father's belongings

By Johnny Dodd
January 12, 2015 07:00 PM
Howard Sochurek/Getty

Three of Martin Luther King Jr.‘s children are expected to appear in an Atlanta courtroom on Tuesday as they battle over the slain civil rights leader’s tattered personal Bible and Nobel Peace Prize, reportedly worth millions of dollars.

Dexter King and Martin Luther King III have sued their sister Bernice King for the items, which are in her possession. King’s estate is controlled by Bernice’s two brothers, who reportedly want to sell their father’s belongings to a private buyer.

The dispute started not long after President Barack Obama used the Bible during his 2013 inauguration. Bernice was ordered by the estate to turn over the two items and was later sued in Fulton County, Georgia, Superior Court when she refused.

In February 2014, Bernice released a statement about the feud over “our father’s most prized possessions,” explaining how troubling her brothers actions are.

“There is no justification for selling either of these sacred items,” she wrote. “They are priceless and should never be exchanged for money in the marketplace. While I love my brothers dearly, this latest decision by them … reveals a desperation beyond comprehension.”

Martin Luther King Jr. with his son Martin III, wife Coretta and daughter Bernice
Donald Uhrbrock/Getty

The siblings have been involved in a number of lawsuits in recent years. In August 2013, on the 50th anniversary of King’s “I Have a Dream” speech, his estate demanded that Bernice, who is the CEO of the Martin Luther King Jr. Center for Nonviolent Social Change, stop using her father’s image, likeness and memorabilia. A ruling on that case is still pending.

In an earlier lawsuit, Dexter King was reportedly sued by siblings Bernice and Martin Luther King III after they claimed that Dexter took cash from the estate of their late mother, Coretta Scott King, and used it for a business venture.

This latest lawsuit comes at the same time as the movie Selma – based on the voting rights march led by King in 1965 – earns critical acclaim and Oscar buzz.

At Tuesday’s hearing, a judge may make a ruling on the fate of King’s Bible and Nobel medal. If no decision is announced, the case could go to trial next month.