As the children of Dr. Martin Luther King prepare to take their bitter, protracted legal battle before a judge today, an elder statesman of the Civil Rights Movement is begging them to lay their differences aside for the sake of their father’s legacy.
“People are hurt and saddened to see Martin’s children at each other’s throats instead of finding a way to resolve their differences through love and nonviolence,” said the Rev. Joseph Lowery, who co-founded the Southern Christian Leadership Conference with Dr. King and marched with the slain civil rights leader during the ’50s and ’60s. “They owe it to their family legacy not to foul it up with fights, bitter court fights and that sort of thing. It is contrary to what the King legacy is all about.”
Bernice King, 46, and Martin Luther King III, 51, are suing their 48-year-old brother, Dexter King, who is the chief executive of King Inc., the entity that controls their father’s papers, intellectual property and materials. They argue that Dexter, whom their mother, Coretta Scott King, put in charge of the estate, has failed to include them in key decisions and that he has tapped money from the estate without their approval. The estate is worth tens of millions of dollars.
Bernice, Martin III and Dexter are the only board members. Bernice and Martin are demanding a meeting of the board, but an attorney for their brother says they are only calling for the meeting to oust Dexter as president and CEO of King Inc. and to take it over themselves, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports.
“If their only goal is to have a coup at the corporation because of their personal feelings about Dexter, that is no way to run a corporation,” Lin Wood, an attorney for King Inc., told the Journal-Constitution. “The question now is whether the children want to come together and act in the best interest of the corporation. At this time, I’m not sure three siblings can make that decision. There has been so much acrimony. ... There is no trust on either side.”
The judge in the case, Ural Glanville of the Fulton County Superior Court, has been urging the squabbling siblings to work out their differences outside of the courtroom, and he appointed an auditor to investigate the specifics of the dispute. Unless they settle, jury selection will begin, according to the Journal-Constitution.