On February 19, a Georgia judge ordered the Rev.
Martin Luther King’s daughter to turn over her father’s Bible and Nobel Peace
Prize medal for safekeeping until a final decision about their ownership can be
Fulton County Superior Court Judge Robert
McBurney said the medal and King’s traveling Bible — used by President
Obama at his 2013 inaugural — would be placed in a safe deposit box and he
would keep the keys as a King family squabble inched closer to resolution.
The Rev. Bernice King had said in early February
that she would fight her brothers to keep their father’s “most prized
possessions” and said she was “absolutely opposed” to selling them. She and her
lawyer could not be reached for comment.
William Hill, the attorney representing Dexter
King and Martin Luther King III on behalf of the King estate, called the
interim decision reasonable. “I would have been more pleased if the court had
granted complete relief, which was our request that the Bible and the Nobel
Peace Prize be turned over to its rightful owner, which is the estate,” Hill
said. “The judge’s interim order placing these items in a truly safe and secure
location is acceptable.”
Hill is hopeful that the judge’s decision will
help expedite a final ruling that the two items belong to the King estate,
giving it the option to sell them.
Bernice King’s lawyer, Eric Barnum, told WXIA,
NBC’s Atlanta affiliate, that his client would turn over the items as the judge
requested. “She’s going to comply with the order of the court,” he said. “I
have no doubt about that.”
The only surviving daughter of the slain civil
rights leader has adamantly opposed the sale of the two items. She said earlier
it was “outright morally reprehensible” and “spiritually violent” to sell the
medal her father won 50 years ago.
“Our Father must be turning in his grave,” she
said at the time. “As a minister of the gospel, the thought of selling my
daddy’s Bible troubles my mind, vexes my spirit and weighs on my soul.”
Hill said the estate decided by a 2-1 vote — with
Martin Luther King III and Dexter King in favor and Bernice King against — to
consider the sale. (The siblings’ other sister, Yolanda, died in 2007.)
Bernice King’s concern about “moral obligation”
about the two items “doesn’t answer the question of legal ownership,” the
estate lawyer said.
Hill also represents
the estate in a suit filed last year over how the King Center, an Atlanta
museum focused on nonviolence that is headed by Bernice King, is handling
memorabilia of the late civil rights leader. “The estate has always asserted
that it owns” the Bible and Nobel medal, Hill said. “The court wants to resolve
this issue once and for all. … Once the court rules that these items are the
property of the estate, that’s the end of the controversy.”