MLK Family Feud

Civil rights leader’s children battle each other over estates

JULY 11–A family dispute over the valuable estates of Martin Luther King Jr. and Coretta Scott King has landed the late couple’s children in court, with two of the siblings claiming that a third has misappropriated money from their parent’s estates. Bernice King and Martin Luther King III charge that, in late June, their brother Dexter improperly transferred “substantial funds” from Bank of America to accounts he controls, according to a Superior Court lawsuit filed yesterday in Fulton County, Georgia. The Bank of America account contains funds from the estate of Coretta Scott King, who died in 2006 at age 78. Bernice King, 45, is administrator of her late mother’s estate, while Dexter, 47, is president of the Estate of Martin Luther King Jr. corporation, of which the siblings are all shareholders.

The operation of that business is in disarray, with the siblings “deadlocked” in its management, according to the complaint, which charges that the company’s assets are “being misapplied or wasted.”

A copy of the July 10 lawsuit, which was first reported by Courthouse News, can be found below. Dexter King’s siblings allege that he “controls” the corporation and has “wrongfully appropriated assets” from the firm “for his own benefit.” He also has allegedly refused to provide his brother and sister with “information and documentation concerning the operation, actions and financial affairs of the Corporation to which they are entitled.” In 2006, the King corporation, which controls the use of the late civil rights leader’s image, sold a private collection of his papers that had been estimated to be worth about $30 million. The material was to have been auctioned by Sotheby’s, but was purchased by a coalition of Atlanta civic and business leaders for future display by Morehouse College, King’s alma mater. (11 pages)

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