- The Washington Times - Monday, October 20, 2008

ATLANTA

The Rev. Bernice King and Martin Luther King III haven’t spoken with their brother in months, and their painful family feud has kept Dexter King from meeting his only niece, his two remaining siblings said Saturday.

The middle children of Martin Luther King and Coretta Scott King told the Associated Press that the ongoing fight may seem at odds with their parents’ peacemaking example. But they maintain that their decision to face their brother in court, though difficult, is in keeping with what they were taught.

“No one wants to be at this place,” Martin Luther King III said, adding that negotiation and direct action are parts of the nonviolent strategy espoused by his parents. “Certainly, Bernice and I would not want to be here, but we didn’t have a choice. We were not able to get a resolution to the conflict we are engaged in. My father also used the court system.”

“This was a very agonizing decision for us because we are family,” Bernice King added.



The three surviving King children have looked more like adversaries than siblings in recent months as they struggle to settle three lawsuits. On Tuesday, attorneys for Dexter King asked a judge to demand that Bernice King - as administrator of her mother’s estate - turn over personal papers, including love letters between the civil rights icons.

The case is continuing in Atlanta civil court, and the judge has appointed a special master to catalog dozens of boxes belonging to Mrs. King.

Control of the documents is threatening to derail a $1.4 million book deal with New York publisher Penguin Group for a memoir about the civil rights matriarch. Bernice King and Martin Luther King III both say that the book goes against their mother’s wishes and that it exemplifies how their brother has effectively shut them out of the corporation that controls their father’s legacy.

“It’s almost like a dictatorship,” Martin Luther King III said. “That’s how it felt to us.”

Craig Frankel, one of the lawyers representing Dexter King as chief executive officer of King Inc., did not immediately return a phone message.

But Dexter King said Tuesday that he was not an instigator in the feud, which he called “a power struggle between siblings” that did not honor the spirit of his parents. However, he did express hope that the conflict could be resolved.

“Healing takes time. We do love each other,” Dexter King said. “We were raised in a loving family. I think that will prevail.”

Martin Luther King III and his sister acknowledged that their rift with Dexter King has developed over several years. In the past, when they disagreed, they respectfully deferred to their mother. Mrs. King’s death in 2006 - and the sudden death of their sister Yolanda in 2007 - failed to bring Dexter King closer to his siblings.

Instead, they have become increasingly estranged.

Yet all three maintain hope for reconciliation.

“One would hope that through tragedy, ultimately, people become closer,” Martin Luther King III said. “That has not happened yet. It’s something we have to work towards. But we have to resolve these issues first.”

Bernice King said she loves and has forgiven her brother.

“I want something different because I know who he is,” she said, adding that she has not spoken with Dexter King in nearly a year. “I really want my brother back … but the trust, for me, that’s where there’s a problem.”

Martin Luther King III said he has not spoken with his brother since June. He also said Dexter King - who lives in Malibu, Calif. - has yet to see his niece, Yolanda.

“He’s the only uncle,” Martin Luther King III said, his voice filled with emotion at the mention of his first child, who he said sometimes looks like Dexter King. “It’s tough from that standpoint.”

Even as they have grown apart from their brother, Bernice King and Martin Luther King III say the challenges of the past two years have improved their relationship with each other.

“Now, we talk many times every day,” Martin Luther King III said. “This has brought us closer. That is where we need to be with our brother.”

Their legal troubles stand in the way for now, but they are not trying to keep their mother’s story from being told, Bernice King said.

“We don’t have a problem with the memoir being done,” she said. “The question is how is it being done.”

Dexter King negotiated the contract with Penguin Group as chief executive officer of King Inc. - the corporation established to manage their father’s estate - without his siblings, who said Mrs. King decided against using author and minister Barbara Reynolds, and never settled on a new writer for the book.

“Nobody has the monopoly on Martin and Coretta Scott King,” Bernice King said. “This is ours, and it should be governed that way.”

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