King stopped Tom Joyner in Selma, Alabama, during the 50th Anniversary of the Selma to Montgomery March, to say he wanted to clear things up about the reports of he and his siblings fighting over his father’s estate.
As we’ve reported, the surviving King siblings – Bernice King, Dexter King and Martin III have been involved in a dispute over portions of their father’s estate, including whether or not his Bible and his Nobel Peace Prize should be sold. But King says that as of now, all legal issues between the siblings have been resolved.
“There are no more legal things other than the court is waiting on a settlement arrangement which is slated to happen this week between all parties,” he says. “All of the legal suits have been dropped.”
But is this the end of the squabbling and legal battles between the siblings?
“I have no defense,” King says of the problems the family has faced. “Unfortunately, as it relates to our family, all families have issues, but unfortunately our issues end up in the public’s face. I don’t expect ever again for us to be in court as it relates to squabbles with each other. We could be in court for other issues, but I don’t expect us to be back in court at each other’s throats.”
King says that the siblings were always in contact with each other despite their differences.
“The goal is to move the legacy forward,” he says. “I think each one of us in our own way believes that we are working to move the legacy forward. The reality is that you’ve got all these strong personalities that come from King stock and Scott stock. And both families were very, very, strong people. Sometimes it takes time to work through these issues. But I really do believe we’ve resolved all these issues.”
As for the controversy over Selma, the movie about the Selma to Montgomery march and King’s leadership role, directed by Ava DuVernay, King says that the family did not block the rights to the use of King’s speeches in the film, because they don’t currently own the rights.
“The one thing that I’ve heard over and over again is that the family has blocked the rights for films and things from people using them. I don’t know that its commonly known, but the definitive rights for the film were granted to Steven Spielberg for DreamWorks. I think Spielberg has another year or two but when that’s done, if he doesn’t make a film, the film rights revert back to the King estate.”
King says that the family would have loved to grant an African-American filmmaker the rights to the film, but that DreamWorks would have have to make that decision.
“It was not in our control,” King said.
Now that the legal battles are at an end, can The King Center can continue its work to continue the legacy of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. One of the disputes was about the upkeep of The Center, which King says continues to play a role in non-violence civil disobedience.
“That is already going on,” says King. “The King Center has constantly been involved in Ferguson in bringing a training team in to expose people to non-violent conflict resolution. The Center is always going to have a voice on those issues because that’s what it was founded for – to teach us how to live together without destroying personal property.”
As for what his father might think of his children’s battling each other, King says no one can definitively say.
“I know he would be greatly disappointed,” he says. “This is not a justification, but children of tragedy often go through all kinds of things, particularly when it’s played out in the public space. My father was killed when I was 10, my grandmother when I was 16. I don’t know if those are issues we just never dealt with. It was taboo in our community to go to counseling. If you got counseling, people said you were crazy. The reality is, if you look at some of the top corporate leaders today, they get counseling and they are making great decisions. Maybe that’s something that many years ago, we should have had. But if Dad had lived, all of this would have been different.”
As far as documents that King gave to people like Harry Belafonte, King wants people to know that the estate is not asking for them back. They just wanted to assure their accuracy, including a document written by President Lyndon Johnson that was in Belafonte’s possession. And King says Belafonte sued the King family, not the other way around. King says all those issues are now resolved as well.
Dexter King is moving back to Atlanta and King believes that will help the siblings communicate better as they will be in closer physical proximity.
“Dexter is moving back sometimes mid-summer and I think that also will help. It’s challenging to communicate directly when you are 3,000 miles away… The hope is that once he is here in Atlanta, we can assemble more easily and help to build a strong relationship again.”
Click the link above to hear the entire interview.