The estate of Martin Luther King Jr. has dropped a lawsuit against the King Center days before the trial was set to begin.
The dispute over some of the civil rights icon’s prized possessions, which was filed in 2013, had pitted King’s two sons against the King Center, which is headed by King’s daughter Bernice.
Thursday, the suit over a licensing agreement was dismissed.
Martin Luther King III, chairman of the King estate, and Dexter King, the president and CEO, had alleged that an audit found that hundreds of items that had once belonged to Martin Luther King Jr. were being housed in “unsafe, unsecure conditions” at the King Center. The brothers said that the items were at risk from fire and water damage, mold, mildew and theft.
In a news release issued Thursday, Dexter King said that Martin Luther King III “has had a change of heart in recent days as it relates to the lawsuit filed in 2013.”
A separate lawsuit filed by the estate against Bernice King regarding some of their father’s most prized possessions, including his 1964 Nobel Peace Prize medal and traveling Bible, remains unresolved, according to William Hill, an attorney for Dexter King.
According to the news release, members of the King family planned to meet.
“We do have some very serious issues to address and resolve, and I hope that we will be successful in doing that amongst and with each other,” Dexter King said in the statement.
The statement continues: “None of us want to see the legacy of my parents, or our dysfunction, out on public display.”
While the lawsuit has been dropped, lawyers for both sides said there is still work to be done to come to an agreement on the underlying issues.
“Where they are is they’re trying to find a resolution, and Dexter, in his capacity as the brother of Martin and Bernice, is trying to find a resolution that serves the interests of the estate because they’re all directors of the estate,” estate lawyer William Hill told The Associated Press.
The King Center is pleased that the estate has taken a first step in dropping the lawsuit, but “there remains much work to be done in terms of forging a long-lasting resolution between the estate and the center in terms of a licensing agreement between the two entities,” James Commons, a lawyer for the center, said in telephone interview.
The trial over the Nobel Peace Prize and Bible is slated to begin in February.
“I’m sure that that lawsuit will also be a part of our settlement discussions,” Dexter King said in the news release, adding that he hopes those issues will be resolved before the trial.
The three surviving King children are the sole shareholders and directors of their father’s estate. At a board of directors meeting a year ago, the two brothers voted 2-1 against Bernice to sell their father’s Bible and peace prize medal.
Bernice has been outspoken in her opposition to selling the items. Speaking after a hearing in that case last week, Dexter declined to say whether they would be sold if the estate prevails in the ownership dispute.
Yolanda King, the eldest child of Martin Luther King Jr. and Coretta Scott King, died in 2007.
Contributing: The Associated Press
SOURCE: WXIA-TV, Atlanta