Bernice King says it's "deep-in-my-soul difficult" to hand over precious heirlooms
Court ordered that she hand over MLK's Bible and Nobel Peace Prize last month
She missed Wednesday's deadline but says she will meet new Monday deadline
MLK siblings have been feuding, and Bernice King says brothers plan to sell items
Calling the latest battle over the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.’s possessions a “spiritually violent” moment in her family’s history, the civil rights icon’s sole surviving daughter said Thursday she already had won the “moral high ground,” regardless of a court’s decision.
At issue are her father’s 1964 Nobel Peace Prize and traveling Bible, used to swear in President Barack Obama for his second term. Bernice King declined to hand the items over on Wednesday, as mandated in a February court order. She has previously said her brothers would sell the items if she gave them up.
The Fulton County Superior Court in Georgia extended the deadline for King to produce the items until Monday, saying it would hold them in a safe-deposit box until the litigation between King and her brothers is settled.
“I must say it is deep-in-my-soul difficult to place my father’s prized, precious heirlooms under the custody of the state, even if only for a season,” she told supporters who gathered at Atlanta’s historic Ebenezer Baptist Church.
“Yet I recognize that justice and righteousness are not always aligned,” she continued, “and there’s often a disconnect between God’s law and man’s law. As dad said, ‘We must accept finite disappointment but never lose infinite hope.’ “
King said she “was led by the Holy Spirit to comply” with the new Monday deadline.
King further told the assembled crowd, made up of supporters and civil rights activists, that the public tug-of-war was a “defining moment for our family” and “an embarrassing chapter in our family’s history.”
She pleaded with her brothers, who were not in attendance, and any prospective buyers to “step up to reason and do what your consciousness says is right.”
According to an affidavit filed in the lawsuit, King wrote an e-mail to her brother Dexter in 2007, saying she was OK with selling some of her father’s possessions. She now says the Bible and Nobel Prize are too sacred to part with.
Emphasizing her deep love for her brothers, Bernice King said she’d ask them to reconsider their stance on the heirlooms and noted that only one brother would need to agree to keep the items in the family.
However, Bernice King told CNN she did not foresee her and her brothers reaching any middle ground. She has not spoken to them in some time, she said.
CNN’s attempts to reach the attorney for the Martin Luther King Estate were not immediately successful.
The three King siblings make up the surviving board of the estate. They took a vote before the lawsuit over whether to sell the items, which Bernice King lost 1-2. The King brothers say that the future of the estate would be threatened if a sale could not be made.
No prospective buyers or dollar amount have been publicly disclosed. Bernice King says she wants to keep the items for reasons other than money.
“If it was about money, hey, I should have just been quiet and took my cut from the sale of these items, but I try to live my life on principle.”
The case is scheduled to be heard September 29.