Posted on January 2, 2009

In Legal Dispute Over King Papers, End Not in Sight

Ben Smith, Atlanta Journal-Constitution, January 1, 2009

It could take months, if not years, before the personal papers of the late Coretta Scott King become public.

The legal family feud over which heir controls the hundreds of boxes of documents King left behind, including letters to and from her husband, civil rights icon Martin Luther King Jr., appears far from over.

A Fulton County judge has given the Rev. Bernice King and her brother Martin Luther King III, until Jan. 8 to turn over 80 boxes of their mother’s personal documents to the court.

Their attorney, Charles Mathis, said this week they will abide by the order. In November, a judge ordered that Bernice King and Martin Luther King III begin producing the documents—80 boxes at a time. Before the judge’s order, the Kings had produced some boxes, but many of them contained other belongings of Coretta King’s and not just documents.

“We are researching our options,” Mathis said. “We plan to comply, under protest.”

The legal dispute started in July when Bernice King and Martin Luther King III filed suit against their brother, Dexter King, who heads King Inc., the family corporation that controls the intellectual property rights to their father’s work.

In that suit, Dexter King’s brother and sister accused him of misappropriating company funds and hiding financial documents from them.

In August, Dexter King countersued, accusing his brother and sister of obstructing the goals of the King Center for Nonviolent Change and of misusing the center’s name and facilities. Both sides dispute the allegations.

The question of who controls Coretta Scott King’s personal papers is at the center of the legal dispute.