Andrew Young at odds with ML King’s sons

By Deepti Hajela | 12/6/2013, 10:34 a.m.
Long sharing the common goal of protecting the legacy of the Rev. Martin Luther King, the bond between the family ...
FRIENDLIER TIMES: Former Ambassador Andrew Young (left) and Martin Luther King III share a conversation at Atlanta City Hall in this file photo. The relationship between King’s sons and their father’s former lieutenant during the civil rights movement, could become strained after they sued the man they affectionately call “Uncle Andy.” Ironically, Young has performed the role as mediator a number of times when the King children were involved in legal disputes with one another. Photo by Moses.

By embracing their father "as a brand," Cobb said, "his legacy under their stewardship has diminished.’’

Belafonte, another of King’s confidants and early civil rights supporter, filed suit against the estate in October, seeking a court ruling that he is the rightful owner of some documents related to King that he had planned to auction several years ago.

The items were pulled from auction after the King children challenged his ownership of the documents. They include an outline of a Vietnam War speech by King, notes to a speech King never got to deliver in Memphis, Tenn., and a condolence letter from President Lyndon B. Johnson to King’s wife after the civil rights leader’s 1968 assassination.

In his lawsuit, Belafonte said all of those items had been in his possession for years, given to him by King, his wife, or close connections of the couple.

Belafonte’s lawyer didn’t return repeated messages from the AP seeking comment or an interview with Belafonte, and a representative of Belafonte Enterprises said he would have no comment.

Young highlighted the yearslong connection between Belafonte and the Kings: "When Martin was killed, the only money that Coretta had was money from an insurance policy that Harry Belafonte had paid out,’’ he said.

Belafonte and Young are not alone in going up against the King estate in court. In 1987, Coretta Scott King sued Boston University and lost over papers her husband had given to the school where he earned his doctorate.

In 2011, the estate filed a federal lawsuit in Jackson, Miss., against the son of Maude Ballou, who was King’s secretary in the late 1950s, over documents including letters from King. They lost, and those documents were put up for auction by Ballou last month.

The three surviving King children _ eldest sibling Yolanda died in 2007 _ have also sued each other. In 2008, Bernice King and Martin Luther King III sued Dexter King, accusing him of acting improperly as head of their father’s estate. The three reached a settlement in October 2009.

The legal actions have brought the King children criticism from some corners. But Young isn’t among those voices.

"Whenever I hear people criticize them, I say, remember, none of them were even teenagers when their father was killed and they’ve done pretty good,’’ Young said. "It’s almost impossible for anyone to live up to that name.’’

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