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MLK's Bible, Nobel Medal Placed in Court's Care in Estate Fight

By Aditi Mukherji, JD on February 20, 2014 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

Martin Luther King Jr.'s personal Bible and Nobel Peace Prize medal must be stored in a safe deposit box that only the court will access, an Atlanta judge ruled.

The Bible and medal will remain there until an estate fight over the items between King's children is resolved, Reuters reports.

For the King children, a day of litigation is a day like any other.

Battle Over Bible and Medal

King's two sons, Dexter and Martin Luther King III, want to sell the Nobel medal and the Bible. As board members of the estate, they voted in favor of a sale. Their sister, Bernice King, is opposing the sale. She voted against the sale and has refused to turn over the items to her brothers, Reuters reports.

The King estate -- controlled by the sons -- sued Bernice King, seeking an emergency court order forcing her to return the items. The estate alleges King's heirs signed a 1995 agreement giving up their inheritance to the Estate of Martin Luther King Jr. Inc., but that Bernice King "secreted and sequestered" the Bible and medal. She says she's a mere gatekeeper of the items.

The brothers say money from the sale is needed to maintain the estate, which partially funds the non-profit Martin Luther King Center for Nonviolent Change in Atlanta and hires lawyers to "protect the King copyright and legacy."

The brothers didn't mention that the estate is suing the non-profit King Center, of which Bernice King is CEO, over the use of King's name and image. It's no surprise the children run up huge legal bills, considering how aggressively they control their late father's intellectual property -- something that longtime King friend Harry Belafonte experienced firsthand.

Court-Controlled Safe Deposit Box

Currently, King's Nobel Peace Prize medal is in a bank safety deposit box, which is a common location for estate property. The Bible, which President Obama used in his second inauguration ceremony, is at the non-profit King Center, Reuters reports.

As the litigation continues, the Bible and medal will be stored in a single bank box in an unknown location and the judge will hold the keys. Courts often do this to make sure the items are in safekeeping during a property dispute.

According to the judge, there is a "likelihood" the King estate -- the brothers -- will win by proving the items are possessions of the estate.

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