A Fulton County (Ga.) judge will decide as early as Tuesday on what to do with the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.’s traveling Bible and his Nobel Peace Prize and other artifacts that two of his children want to sell but one wants to keep at the King Center.
Both iconic items are currently locked away in a Both relics reside in a safe deposit box, the keys held since March by an Atlanta judge presiding over the latest – and in many eyes, the ugliest – fight between King’s heirs.
President Obama used King’s traveling bible for his swearing in ceremony during his second oath of office two years ago. The public hasn’t seen the slain civil rights icon’s 1964 Nobel Peace Prize medal in recent years, however.
Martin Luther King Jr. Inc.’s estate, which is controlled by Martin Luther King III and his younger brother, Dexter Scott King, requested to a judge to make their sister Bernice to turn over their father’s Nobel medal and traveling Bible. The brothers want to sell them to a private buyer.
Two separate appraisers, Leila Dunbar and Clive Howe, told reporters they would expect the medal to sell for about $5 million to $10 million, and possibly more, based on what other Nobel medals have gone for and King’s place in history.
Dunbar said she would expect the Bible to sell for at least $200,000 and possibly more than $400,000. Howe said it would probably go for about $1 million.
Fulton County Superior Court Judge Robert McBurney could decide the case at a hearing Tuesday or let it go to trial. He said when he ordered Bernice to hand over the Bible and medal to the court’s custody that it appeared likely the estate will win the case.
This is at least the fifth lawsuit between the siblings in the past decade, but this one crosses the line, Bernice proclaimed in February from the pulpit of historic Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta, where her father and grandfather preached. Her father cherished these two items, which speak to the very core of who he was, she said.
The Rev. Timothy McDonald, who served as assistant pastor at Ebenezer from 1978 to 1984 and sides with Bernice but describes himself as a friend of the whole family, told The Associated Press: “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.”
King’s heirs have previously parted with parts of his legacy. They sold a collection of more than 10,000 of his personal papers and books in 2006 for $32 million, a collection now housed at Morehouse College, King’s alma mater.