Judge says MLK Bible belongs to his estate, which proposed selling it

Credit: Ponsford, LTD

Credit: Ponsford, LTD


Background: The King estate has sued the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.'s daughter, Bernice, to gain control of King's Bible and Nobel Peace Prize medal.

The latest: A Fulton County judge ruled July 1 that the Bible belongs to the estate.

What's next: The medal's fate will be decided at a trial in August unless the King siblings can reach an agreement before then.

A Fulton County judge has awarded possession of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.’s traveling Bible to his estate, which is controlled by two sons who have proposed selling it.

But the fate of King’s 1964 Nobel Peace Prize medal and accompanying certificate is still undecided. King’s children can battle over it at trial on Aug. 15, unless they reach an agreement before then, Fulton County Superior Court Judge Robert McBurney said in a recent ruling.

Attorneys for the children did not respond to repeated requests for comment Monday afternoon.

At issue is Dexter King and Martin Luther King III’s contention that a 1995 agreement gives the Estate of Martin Luther King Jr. Inc. ownership of all of their father’s property — specifically the 1964 Nobel Peace Prize and a Bible their father traveled with. Barack Obama used that Bible during his second inauguration as president.

In 2014, the brothers outvoted their sister, Bernice King, 2-1 in favor of selling the items. Bernice King protested the move, arguing that the items were sacred, and the family ended up in court.

In October, Jimmy Carter — who negotiated peace between Israel and Egypt and has a Nobel Prize of his own — was brought in to mediate the dispute.

From the outset, the gap between the children was wide and bitter.

In February 2014, Bernice King publicly accused her brothers of trying to sell their father’s 23-karat gold Nobel Prize medal, as well as the family Bible.

Earlier, the King brothers filed a complaint in Fulton County Superior Court on behalf of the King Estate for emergency injunctive relief, claiming their sister had “secreted and sequestered” the Bible and Nobel medal in violation of the 1995 ownership agreement.

In March 2014, Bernice King was ordered to surrender the items until a court could sort things out. The Bible and medal were placed in a safe deposit box.

Over the past decade, there have been at least five lawsuits pitting two King siblings against one. Among them was a 2009 dispute in which Bernice King and King III found themselves in court against Dexter King over control of the estate.

A judge eventually installed a custodian to temporarily run the estate and avoid a lengthy, embarrassing jury trial.

On Aug. 28, 2013, on the 50th anniversary of their father’s “I Have a Dream” speech, the brothers filed a lawsuit in Fulton County Superior Court calling for Bernice King to be placed on administrative leave as CEO of the King Center and for several items in her possession to be turned over to the estate. That lawsuit was dismissed last fall.