Published July 11, 2008
ATLANTA – Two of Martin Luther King Jr.'s children have filed a lawsuit against a third, embroiling the family in a legal dispute over the civil rights icon's estate.
Bernice King and Martin Luther King III filed a lawsuit Thursday in county court to force Dexter King to open the books of their father's estate.
The lawsuit claims that Dexter King, the estate administrator, is refusing to provide his two siblings with documents concerning the estate's operations. That includes financial records, contracts, financial affairs and other documents, the lawsuit said.
"Martin and Bernice would like to know what's going on in the estate of Martin Luther King Jr.," said Harmon W. Caldwell, an attorney representing them. "It's that simple."
Dexter King has 30 days to respond to the lawsuit. He did not immediately return phone calls seeking comment.
The lawsuit claims that Dexter King and the estate "converted substantial funds from the estate's financial account ... for their own use" on June 20 without notifying his siblings.
The lawsuit also claims that Dexter King may have taken assets "for his own benefit" and that the assets may have been "misapplied or wasted."
"We're concerned, and we want to know what's going on," Caldwell said.
King's estate, which controls the civil rights leader's image, sold a collection of more than 10,000 of his personal papers and books to the city of Atlanta in 2006 for $32 million.
The collection was set to go to auction until Atlanta business and civic leaders pulled together an eleventh-hour deal to acquire it as a potential centerpiece for a new civil rights museum.