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King Center CEO Bernice King: My brothers want to sell my father’s Nobel Peace Prize medal and Bible

By Maria Saporta

Bernice A. King – the youngest and only living daughter of civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr. – issued the strongest statement yet against her two brothers — Dexter Scott King and Martin Luther King III — and their desire to sell two of their late father’s prized possessions.

Bernice King, CEO of the Martin Luther King Center for Nonviolent and Social Change, went public Tuesday about how her brothers now want to sell her father’s Nobel Peace Prize medal and his personal Bible.

Once again, the King brothers used a monumental date in order to take an action against their sister. They first filed a suit trying to get her ousted as a CEO of the King Center on Aug. 28, 2013 — the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington.

The latest action was taken on Jan. 20, the day that the nation was observing the King holiday in honor of what would have been Martin Luther King Jr.’s 85 birthday on Jan. 15, 2014.

Here is a copy of the statement that she issued Tuesday morning:

On January 20, as we observed my father’s 85th birthday and The King Holiday, my brothers, Dexter Scott King and Martin Luther King, III, notified me that they want to sell to a private buyer our father’s most prized possessions, his Nobel Peace Prize Medal and his personal Bible which was used by President Barack Obama as he was sworn in for his second term in office and subsequently signed by him.  I am absolutely opposed to the selling of these extremely sacred items and I expressed my opposition to my brothers.  Although these items have been under my care and custody for the past few years, they have remained in a safe and secure location since my father’s assassination, and my mother’s death in 2006.  After I refused to immediately transfer these items to another location at their request, consequently on January 31 my brothers through The Estate of Martin L. King, Jr., Inc filed a lawsuit {Civil Action No. 2014cv241929} to force me to turn these items over for the express purpose of selling them.

In my opinion, there is no justification for selling either of these sacred items.  They are priceless and should never be exchanged for money in the marketplace.

While I love my brothers dearly, this latest decision by them is extremely troubling.   Not only am I appalled and utterly ashamed, I am frankly disappointed that they would even entertain the thought of selling these precious items. It reveals a desperation beyond comprehension. As Mark 8:36 teaches, For what does it profit a man to gain the whole world and forfeit his soul?”

Our Father MUST be turning in his grave.

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.  The thought of profiting from the sale of the Peace Prize Medal, which my father accepted 50 years ago this year on behalf of the greatest demonstration of peace this nation has ever seen, is spiritually violent, unconscionable, historically negligent, and outright morally reprehensible.

This is especially true in light of the fact that my father gave away every dime of the Nobel award money to support the civil rights movement.

My brothers’ decision to sue me is drastic and grieves me greatly.

I have absolutely no desire to be in court or to fight yet another public battle. There are crippling questions plaguing our world and our father had many answers.  Our energy should be focused on the business of advancing his nonviolent teachings in the world.

Nonetheless, some actions are sacrilegious and some things are not for sale no matter the circumstances, including my daddy’s Bible and Nobel Peace Prize Medal.  Both are tangible evidence of the faith and devotion of Martin Luther King, Jr. and Coretta Scott King. Parting with this priceless memorabilia should not be an option.

Though I am unsettled at the prospect of losing these treasures, I am steadfast in my strength to protect them.  I continue to pray for my brothers, especially that they will recognize that no amount of money can compensate for the priceless inheritance we received from our parents and our responsibility to advancing their legacies.

Maria Saporta

Maria Saporta, Editor, is a longtime Atlanta business, civic and urban affairs journalist with a deep knowledge of our city, our region and state.  Since 2008, she has written a weekly column and news stories for the Atlanta Business Chronicle. Prior to that, she spent 27 years with The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, becoming its business columnist in 1991. Maria received her Master’s degree in urban studies from Georgia State and her Bachelor’s degree in journalism from Boston University. Maria was born in Atlanta to European parents and has two young adult children.



  1. Burroughston Broch February 4, 2014 5:24 pm

    The King childrens’ appetite for airing their dirty linen in public seems to have no limits. They are all three equally culpable. The courts will sort who owns what since they are unable to agree in private.Report

  2. Burroughston Broch February 6, 2014 5:08 pm

    The King children’s willingness to air their dirty linen in public is breathtaking.Report

  3. What Matters February 10, 2014 10:04 am

    I agree with Bernice King.  What is the purpose of wanting to sell these items?  Reduced down to my level, I am one of three children.  This would be the equivalent of them wanting to sell my deceased mother’s wedding ring!  Not happening.  Is nothing sacred?Report

  4. Burroughston Broch February 15, 2014 9:11 am

    @What Matters  The purpose is to convert the items into cash to spend or invest.Report


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