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Martin Luther King Jr.'s Children Resolve Bitter Dispute Over Estate

An out-of-court settlement has finally resolved a long-standing dispute among Dr. Martin Luther King's children over his multimillion-dollar estate.

Although Dr. King died in 1968, his estate continues to produce substantial income. Among other things, the estate includes the broadcast rights to Dr. King's “I have a dream” speech. In 1999, the 11th Circuit ruled in Estate of Martin Luther King, Jr., Inc. v. CBS, Inc.that the public performance of his speech did not constitute "general publication," and that by giving the speech in public he did not forfeit his copyright. As a result, re-broadcast of the speech has remained a major income generator for the estate.

In addition, the estate made $32 million from the sale of Dr. King's papers to the City of Atlanta in 2006. The sale was reportedly necessary "to protect the papers for future generations because of crumbling infrastructure and mounting debt at the King Center in Atlanta," the Times Online reports.

The dispute between Dr. King's children culminated in a lawsuit filed by two of his children, Bernice and Martin Luther King III, against their brother, Dexter. The lawsuit alleged that Dexter converted “substantial funds" from the estate for his personal use. Dexter King then countersued his brother and sister, demanding control of certain love letters between Dr. King and Coretta Scott King. The recent settlement of the lawsuit resolved the various claims, and the siblings have stated that they hope to now move forward and preserve the legacy of their parents.

Posted by Bruce Carton on October 20, 2009 at 11:45 AM | Permalink | Comments (2)


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