For all of the emotions wrapped up in their father’s Nobel Peace Prize and Bible that was eventually used by the country’s first black president during his second inauguration, the lawsuit-fueled exchange of the items between Bernice King and her brother, Martin Luther King III, was as surgically sterile as one could imagine.
Bernice King quietly surrendered Martin Luther King Jr.’s key possessions over to King III, who placed them in a safety deposit box – and virtual limbo — until a judge decides whether he and his brother, Dexter Scott King, can sell the Bible and 1964 Nobel Peace Prize, possibly pocketing millions.
An attorney who witnessed the exchange said it was short and to the point. Few words were said between the siblings.
It was over in five minutes.
“It was not very dramatic at all,” said William B. Hill, an attorney for the King brothers, who are suing their sister on behalf of the King Estate, the for-profit arm of the family’s empire.
The family, the sole trustees of the King Estate, voted 2-1 to sell the items, which had been in the possession of Bernice King.
Bernice King voted against the sale and refused to turn over the items. Last month, Fulton County Superior Court Judge Robert McBurney ordered her to turn them over to the brothers so they could place them in an undisclosed safety deposit box. McBurney will control the keys until he makes a decision. A full hearing is scheduled for Sept. 29, while several motions are scheduled to be heard Friday.
Eric Barnum, an attorney for Bernice King, confirmed the exchange took place, but declined to characterize the atmosphere of the meeting.
“Bernice King complied with the court order,” Barnum said.
Bernice King said last week that she would not defy the order and risk going to jail, as some of her supporters suggested. She had originally been scheduled to turn over the items last week. But attorneys for both sides negotiated an extension to accommodate her and King III’s schedules. Dexter King, who lives in California, did not attend the meeting.
Hill said that a little after 2 p.m. on Monday, Bernice King and King III, along with their lawyers and bank officials, met at the bank.
He said Bernice King handed the two items to King III.
King III briefly examined the items, before placing them inside the safety deposit box.
Neither Hill nor Barnum would reveal what bank was used.
Hill said the siblings had little to say about the case.
“They didn’t talk,” Hill said. “Other than the pleasantries of the day.”