Court-Ordered Mediation May Finally Put an End to Dispute Among MLK’s Children Over Father’s Nobel Prize, Bible

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The Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.'s children -- Dexter (left), Bernice and Martin III -- are involved in a dispute over their father's traveling Bible and 1964 Nobel Peace Prize. Credit John Bazemore, File / Associated Press
The Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.’s children — Dexter (left), Bernice and Martin III — are involved in a dispute over their father’s traveling Bible and 1964 Nobel Peace Prize.
Credit John Bazemore, File / Associated Press

The legal battle driving a rift between the surviving children of Martin Luther King Jr. is slated to finally come to an end with court-ordered mediation.

King’s three surviving children — Martin Luther King III, Dexter Scott King and Bernice King — have been at odds for years due to disagreements about what to do with the civil rights leader’s possessions.

The latest dispute was over King’s traveling Bible and a 1964 Nobel Peace Prize.

The three children are the sole shareholders and directors of the Martin Luther King Jr. Estate Inc., but they haven’t always agreed on how their father’s legacy should be handled.

Back in January 2014, Martin and Dexter voted to sell their father’s Nobel Peace Prize and Bible to a private buyer, but Bernice, who has long had possession of the items, refused to hand them over even after the estate filed a lawsuit asking her to surrender them.

Bernice insisted that the prized possessions shouldn’t be sold to an undisclosed, private buyer.

The catch, however, is that back in 1995, King’s children signed over their rights to many of the items they inherited from their father to the estate.

Since the majority of the estate voted to sell the items, Bernice was left with the odds against her.

The legalities of the matter, however, failed to deter her from pleading with her brothers not to sell the items even after she agreed to hand them over. 

The upcoming court mediation will come after a series of delays in resolving the ongoing feud.

“The case was set to go to trial in February, but Fulton County Superior Court Judge Robert McBurney temporarily halted all action in the case at the parties’ request to allow them time to settle,” The Associated Press reported. “He ordered them to appear before him in late March if they hadn’t reached an agreement by then, and later extended that deadline to Wednesday.”

According to Bernice’s lawyer, Eric Barnum, both parties have been involved in “intense settlement discussions” on a wide array of issues regarding their father’s estate and related for-profit and nonprofit entities.

Martin Luther King Jr. Nobel Peace PrizeIt’s a sign that the sibling are not looking to only resolve this issue but to put an end to all past and future disputes about their father’s belongings and likeness.

“My understanding is everyone wants to settle things once and for all,” Barnum added.

Even before the dispute started over King’s Bible and Nobel Peace Prize, the King children were at odds and taking their disagreements to the courts.

Back in January, the King estate finally decided to dismiss a lawsuit it had filed back in August 2013 against the Martin Luther King Center for Nonviolent Social Change, which is more commonly referred to as the King Center.

Bernice King is the center’s CEO.

“The suit centered on a licensing agreement between the estate and the King Center for the use of King’s name, likeness, works and memorabilia,” The Associated Press reported. “The estate claimed the King Center had violated that agreement and was storing King artifacts in unsafe and unsecure conditions.”

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