Dr. Martin Luther King Jr’s children are turning to mediation to resolve a family dispute. Like many Americans, they want to maintain their privacy and therefore need to stay away from the court system. While the King family turning to mediation is not a surprising choice, their pick for mediator was unique. The King siblings have picked former President Jimmy Carter to mediate their family dispute. This is very surprising given the fact that Carter is at the fragile age of 91 and had been fighting cancer for a while. The family and a judge in Georgia agreed to mediation, which started in October 2015.
The subject of the family dispute is MLK’s belongings. These belongings include the Bible MLK carried throughout the Civil Rights Movement and his Nobel Peace Prize medal from 1964. King’s daughter, Bernice, thinks the heirlooms are “sacred” and that the family should keep them in their possession. King’s two sons, MLK III and Dexter, want to sell both the Bible and the Nobel Peace Prize. Bernice was very hurt when she was informed that her brother’s wanted to sell their father’s possessions. She also claims the items do not belong to the estate, which is controlled by the two sons. Bernice has both items in her possession and is not willing to give them up if they were going to be sold to a private buyer.
President Carter’s final act in his life may be helping other people resolve a dispute. The King siblings picked Carter because of their trust in his expertise and their faith in him as a mediator. They believe Carter will be the one who can understand, respect, and empathize with them. The hope is that Carter’s mediation will preserve the sibling’s relationship and honor the King family name. This goes to show that mediation is an option for everyone, regardless of who they are or the kind of dispute at hand.
An update on this issue revealed the President Carter’s mediation may not be working. After attempting to mediate the situation for nearly six months, Fulton County Superior Court Judge Robert McBurney said the mediation had gone on long enough. He said unless there is a decision in the next few days, there will be a trial starting on August 15, 2016. The historic artifacts could sell for millions of dollars and this may be the reasons the dispute between the siblings is heating up.