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Legal Dispute Ends Over Martin Luther King Jr.'s Nobel Medal And Bible

A judge on Monday approved a settlement of a legal dispute among the  children of civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr. (pictured in 2006, from left to right: Dexter Scott King, Bernice King, Martin Luther King III.). The dispute was over selling their father's Nobel Prize medal and travel Bible.
John Bazemore

The children of Martin Luther King Jr. have agreed to end a legal battle over his Nobel Peace Prize and travel Bible, which pitted the civil rights leader's heirs against each other.

A judge in Georgia signed an order Monday releasing the items to Martin Luther King III, who serves with his siblings, Dexter Scott King and Bernice King, as the sole directors of their father's estate.

At issue was a January 2014vote among the siblings on whether to sell the items to a private bidder, with Martin and Dexter voting for and Bernice against.

As WABE's Amy Kiley tells our Newscast unit, Bernice was in possession of the items at the time and called King's Nobel medal and Bible — which was used in President Obama's second inauguration — "sacred."

The estate — which is chaired by Martin — then sued Bernice, beginning a legal battle that ended Monday with Fulton County Judge Robert McBurney's order, The Associated Press reports:

"The dispute over the Bible and Nobel medal was originally set to go to trial in February 2015, but McBurney halted all action in the case to give the two sides a chance to talk and see if they could resolve their differences outside of court. Lawyers for both sides told the judge in May 2015 that they were close to an agreement but not quite there, and McBurney ordered mediation at the request of Bernice's attorneys.

"Former President Jimmy Carter in October confirmed he was working as a mediator in the case.

"McBurney said at a hearing in June that he had been willing to allow the long delays in the case because the issues at stake are very important. But he added that it's vital for the court to keep pending cases moving.

"He issued an order dated July 1 ruling that the Bible belonged to the estate, but he said the issue of ownership of the peace prize medal would proceed to trial because 'genuine issues of material fact' remained."

It is unclear whether the medal and Bible go up for sale with the estate now in possession.

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Jason Slotkin
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