Wednesday, October 15, 2008 at 8:15 AM
King’s legacy has not been enhanced by the squabbling amongst his four children – pitting two of them who regard it as their inheritance to use for their personal benefit against the other two who regard it as a public trust for them to manage as zealous trustees.
[Children of Martin Luther King fighting over his estate, The iPINIONS Journal, July 14, 2008]
Last July, when I wrote about the latest spectacle the children of Martin Luther King Jr. were making of his legacy, I really didn’t think they could do any more harm. But that all changed yesterday when they showed up in court to air more of their family’s dirty linen.
And just as it was on the other two occasions when their squabbling ended up in court, the issue this time was whether Dexter King would be able to use his position as head of MLK’s estate to enrich himself.
Specifically, Dexter signed a $1.4 million contract with Penguin publishing earlier this year for an autobiography of Coretta Scott King. But then his sister Bernice, who is the administrator of their mother’s estate, refused to release photos, papers and intimate correspondence between MLK and Coretta, which the biographer, Barbara Reynolds, said are indispensable to the book.
Therefore, after Penguin threatened to terminate the contract and demand return of its $300,000 if he does not produce the documents by Friday, October 17, Dexter asked a judge to order Bernice to release them.
For her part, Bernice has vowed not only to screw Dexter but also to defy any court order to turn over the documents. And her other brother, Martin, is supporting her as if MLK’s legacy depended on it.
According to the Associated Press, Bernice and Martin insist that their mother did not want Reynolds to write the biography. Whereas, Dexter insists that their mother signed control of her intellectual property over to their father’s estate, which gave him control over Coretta’s documents and vested him with sole authority to broker the book deal as he saw fit.
Now both sides have hired lawyers to hurl pot-calling-the-kettle-black accusations at each other about misusing and abusing their parents’ legacies for personal gain.
But instead of reiterating my dismay over this ongoing King family feud, I shall conclude this latest episode with the lamentation of David J. Garrow, the Pulitzer Prize-winning biographer of Dr. King:
It’s sad and pathetic to see the three of them behaving in this self-destructive way. Unfortunately all of the children seem to regard their father’s legacy as first and foremost an income maximization opportunity for themselves.
MLK and Coretta must be rolling over in their graves…
Children of Martin Luther King Jr fighting over his estate