MLK heirs fight over selling his Bible and Nobel Peace Prize medal

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ATLANTA, Ga. — A judge in Atlanta heard arguments Tuesday in a dispute over who owns the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.’s 1964 Nobel Peace Prize medal and traveling Bible but did not issue a ruling in favor of either side.

The dispute has effectively pitted two sons of the civil rights leader against his daughter.

King’s estate, which is controlled by his sons, last year asked a judge to order King’s daughter to surrender the items.

In a board of directors meeting last year, Martin Luther King III and Dexter Scott King voted 2-1 against Bernice King to sell the two artifacts.

This is at least the fifth lawsuit between the siblings in the past decade.

The Rev. Timothy McDonald, who served as assistant pastor at Ebenezer from 1978 to 1984 and sides with Bernice, “You don’t sell Bibles and you don’t get but one Nobel Peace Prize. There are some items that you just don’t put a price on.”

A lawyer who represented the estate last year said the estate needs the money.

Paying lawyers to enforce the rights to King’s words and image is expensive, attorney William Hill reminded the judge, drawing chuckles.

Whether to sell the Bible and the medal is not up to the judge, or even part of the lawsuit, which is purely an ownership dispute.

Lawyers for Bernice have argued, among other things, that King gave the Nobel medal to his wife as a gift, meaning that it is part of Coretta Scott King’s estate. Bernice is the administrator of her mother’s estate.

King’s heirs sold a collection of more than 10,000 of his personal papers and books in 2006 for $32 million.

Appraisers say the medal to sell for $5 million to $10 million and the Bible from $200,000 up to $1 million.

Both items have enormous societal value and should be on public display, said Barbara Andrews, director of education and interpretation at the National Civil Rights Museum in Memphis.

Both items have been locked away for years and unseen by the public.

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