Bernice King implores brothers to rethink heirloom sale
ATLANTA—Bernice King said Thursday she’ll turn over her father’s personal Bible and Nobel Peace Prize, but continues to urge her brothers not to sell the historical items.
The battle for control of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s family Bible and Nobel prize medallion has created a messy and public rift between the civil rights leader’s three surviving children.
Bernice King says her brothers, Dexter and Martin King, want to sell their father’s items. In a news conference Thursday at Ebenezer Baptist Church, Bernice King called on her brothers to reconsider their decision.
“I appeal to you to reconsider your position and not sell our father’s Bible and Nobel Peace Prize,” Bernice King said. “These two artifacts are too sacred to be sold or be bought under any circumstance.”
King’s estate is run by his two sons, Martin Luther King III and Dexter King. The estate’s lawyers filed court papers Jan. 31 asking a judge to order their sister, the Rev. Bernice King, to surrender the items. A lawyer for the estate said at a court hearing last month that the estate has been in conversations with entities that want to buy or lease them.
Bernice has repeatedly said she opposes any such deal.
“I implore you to consider the magnitude of this moment in history and how you want your individual legacies to be defined,” Bernice said at the news conference, addressing her brothers who weren’t present.
The estate’s lawyers had asked a judge to order Bernice to immediately turn over the items, saying the potential deals to sell or lease them were time-sensitive.
Fulton County Superior Court Judge Robert McBurney declined to do that at a hearing last month, saying it would be more appropriate to maintain the status quo until the ownership dispute is resolved.
He ordered that the items be kept together in a safe deposit box in the name of the estate but that the keys be given to the court.
McBurney set a deadline of Wednesday for the items to be placed in the safe deposit box. Eric Barnum, Bernice’s lawyer, said the parties’ conflicting schedules didn’t allow them to meet that deadline and that the judge agreed to extend it to Monday.
Bernice was joined at the news conference by supporters, including Elizabeth Omilami, the daughter of civil rights leader Hosea Williams, and the Rev. Willie Bolden, who said he participated with King in the Southern Christian Leadership Conference.
Bernice said some people had urged her to refuse to hand over the Bible and Nobel Peace Prize and to go to jail instead. But she said she will comply with the judge’s order.
“It is, deep in my soul, difficult to place what my father described as precious heirlooms under the custody of the government, even if only for a season,” she said. “Yet, I recognize that justice and righteousness are not always aligned, and there is often a disconnect between God’s law and man’s law.”
(Contributing: Associated Press)