Commentary

Saunders: MLK’s children besmirch his legacy with their greed

bsaunders@newsobserver.comMarch 31, 2013 

The three surviving children of Martin and Coretta Scott King have become the Fred Sanford and Bubba Bexley of the 21st century.

Remember on “Sanford & Son” when Fred donated those vintage Blind Mellow Jelly albums that turned out to be more valuable than he thought?

He and best bud Bubba cooked up a scheme to get them back: Bubba dressed as Blind Mellow Jelly’s son – Potbelly – and showed up to solemnly announce over and over “I want my daddy’s records.”

Martin III, Bernice and Dexter King – henceforth known as The King Three – in their seemingly never-ending quest to both besmirch and make a buck off their daddy’s name, already prohibit news organizations from using parts of their daddy’s image without breaking them off some cheddar. Now, they are seemingly demanding the return of every piece of memorabilia their father or mother ever touched.

For instance, they demanded millions from the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Foundation that was raising money for the memorial on the National Mall, then they demanded that the foundation drop Dr. King’s name from its official title.

When they sued each other, some of us thought – nay, prayed – that their avarice had bottomed out. Dexter reportedly sued his siblings to get some love letters their parents had written to each other so he could include them in his book; they then sued him for not cutting them in on the book deal.

Bottomed out? Fat chance.

Suit over gifts

They last month lost a lawsuit against a man whose mother owned documents and artifacts given her by Dr. King. An appeals court ruled in favor of Howard Ballou after the three King children sued for the return of items their father had given to Maude Ballou, Howard’s mom.

Maude Ballou and her husband, Leonard, both once worked at Elizabeth City State University, where the documents were found and turned over to the Ballous. Maude also formerly served as Dr. King’s secretary for five years. She is living out her last years with her son and her cherished memories.

The King Three didn’t give a rat’s toenail about that. They sued.

Yes, Dr. King was famous for preaching nonviolence, but you’ve got to believe that if he came back he’d be tempted to slap his greedy kids upside the head.

Somebody – I wish it had been me – recently wrote a piece wondering from which King these King kids descended: Don or Martin. In light of their seemingly unconscionable greed, that’s a fair question.

Sentiment and money

The sentimental value of the items Mrs. Ballou has – among them a sermon and a handwritten letter to Maude from Rosa Parks – is incalculable. But I asked Robert Gibbs, the Mississippi attorney representing the Ballou family, if any monetary value had been affixed to them.

“Not by us,” Gibbs said. “In the lawsuit that was filed, the King family asserted a value of above $75,000, but I think they just pulled that number out of the sky.”

Hmmph. I was going to say they pulled itfrom someplace else. From wherever they pulled that figure, though, they’ve now got me scared to pull my King albums off the shelf and listen to his famous speeches, lest Dexter, Marty and Bernice show up demanding their share of the royalties of albums I purchased 40 years ago.

I want my daddy’s records, indeed.

bsaunders@newsobserver.com or 919-836-2811

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