Skip to main content

Siblings' fight over MLK estate set for trial

  • Story Highlights
  • Bernice King, Martin Luther King III accuse brother of taking estate funds for own use
  • Dexter King, administrator of Martin Luther King Jr. estate, denies accusations
  • Dexter King files countersuit, wants sister to turn over mother's personal papers
  • Judge's order says "the court is extremely troubled"
Decrease font Decrease font
Enlarge font Enlarge font

ATLANTA, Georgia (CNN) -- Jury selection is set to start Monday in a trial pitting two children of Martin Luther King Jr. against their brother, whom they accuse of mishandling the late civil rights leader's estate.

Dexter King denies his siblings' accusations and is countersuing Bernice King for their mother's papers.

Bernice King and her brother Martin Luther King III say Dexter King took funds from their father's estate.

Bernice King and Martin Luther King III sued their brother Dexter King in July 2008, one month after accusing him of converting "substantial funds from the estate's financial account at Bank of America" for his own use, according to the lawsuit.

Also named as a defendant is the Martin Luther King Jr. estate, which is incorporated. Dexter King is the corporation's president and chief executive, in addition to being the estate's administrator.

The three are the only shareholders in the corporation, and the plaintiffs hold at least 20 percent of its outstanding shares.

The lawsuit contends Dexter King illegally and fraudulently converted estate funds and should be forced to repay the money and reimburse the plaintiffs' legal costs. The document, which lists five counts, does not say how much he is accused of taking.

Dexter King has denied the accusations.

The lawsuit reveals a very public fissure in an iconic family that has always professed unity, particularly as questions have swirled around some of their financial dealings.

The three are the only surviving children of Martin Luther King Jr., who was assassinated in 1968, and Coretta Scott King, who died in 2006. Their oldest child, Yolanda King, died in 2007. Bernice King administers her mother's estate.

In a countersuit, Dexter King has asked a judge to force Bernice King to turn over their mother's personal papers, including love letters central to a now-defunct $1.4 million book deal.

Martin Luther King III and Bernice King complained that Dexter King refused to hold shareholders meetings, which they said was another example of his lack of transparency in handling their father's estate.

There had been no shareholders' meeting of the corporation since 2004, something that Dexter King blamed on the distraction caused by the deaths of his mother and sister. Judge Ural D. Glanville ordered a meeting, which was held last week.

In a hearing held in late September, Glanville, who will preside over the trial in Fulton County Superior Court, also expressed serious concern about governance of the King estate.

The judge issued an order saying "the court is extremely troubled."

He noted that Dexter King, as the majority shareholder, wields significant power in the corporation because he holds 80 percent of its shares. He alone can constitute a quorum for transacting business, the order says.

The judge warned all three Kings that any failure to comply with the Georgia Corporation Code could result in the dissolution of the corporation and the appointment of a receiver.

All About Martin Luther King Jr.Martin Luther King IIIBernice KingDexter King

  • E-mail
  • Save
  • Print