Families fight. All of them do. But most are able to do that without taking it to the courts. And most families aren’t the scion of a Civil Rights icon. Unfortunately for the King family, they’re famous whether they want to be or not and they can’t, for some reason, get along. For The Root on Tuesday I drafted a timeline of all the familial legacy squabbles and disputes between the children of Martin Luther King Jr.
Since the deaths of their mother, Coretta Scott King, and eldest sibling, Yolanda King, the surviving children of civil rights icon Martin Luther King Jr. have engaged in some publicly destructive and embarrassing behavior.
Lawsuits abound in this King Lear-ish plot as brothers Dexter Scott King and Martin Luther King III have tried to oust sister Bernice King from her spot as CEO of the King Center in Atlanta. The situation reached peak messiness last year when Bernice revealed that her brothers planned to sell their father’s 1964 Nobel Peace Prize and Bible. Now a judge is set to decide this week—just as the nation is set to mark Martin Luther King Jr. Day on Monday—whether Bernice must give up the heirlooms or whether the case will go to trial.
It’s disgusting that an understandable effort to get better control of their father’s image would turn into this: controversies over money mismanagement; constant lawsuits against King’s documenters, friends and contemporaries; and the image of MLK being used to sell cellphones. But worst of all, who could have guessed that it would dissolve into three children regularly suing and countersuing one another for almost a decade over who would control the millions that make up “King Inc.,” or the estate of Martin Luther King Jr. Inc.?