May 27, 2015 / 5:41 PM / 4 years ago

Dispute over Martin Luther King Jr.'s Bible, Nobel medal heads for mediation

Reverend Bernice King, daughter of the late civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr., listens during witness statements at the sentencing of former Atlanta public school educators convicted of racketeering, in Atlanta, Georgia April 13, 2015. REUTERS/Kent D. Johnson/Pool

ATLANTA (Reuters) - A judge in Georgia agreed on Wednesday to appoint a mediator to help settle a dispute between the late Martin Luther King Jr.’s children over whether to sell his 1964 Nobel Peace Prize medal and the Bible he carried during the civil rights movement.

The fight pits the slain civil rights leader’s sons Martin Luther King III and Dexter King, who want to sell the medal and Bible, against King’s surviving daughter, Bernice King, who opposes the sale of items she calls “sacred” to the family.

Attorneys for the King estate and Bernice King said they were close to settling a lawsuit filed against her by the estate.

A court-ordered mediator would help the parties put the “final touches” on an agreement, Eric Barnum, Bernice King’s lawyer, told Fulton County Superior Court Judge Robert McBurney during a hearing. McBurney said he would appoint a mediator, with a goal of completing an agreement by Sept. 30.

Martin Luther King III and Dexter King, acting as majority board members of their father’s estate, voted last year to sell the Peace Prize and Bible, which was used by President Barack Obama during his second inauguration.

There have been years of legal disputes among King’s heirs. The lawsuit filed by the estate against Bernice King has been on hold for several months as the parties privately negotiated a potential settlement.

“We’ve made substantial progress,” Barnum said. “I believe we’re close.”

Nicole Wade, an attorney for King estate, agreed the parties were nearing a settlement of the lawsuit but did not take a position on court-ordered mediation.

Reporting by David Beasley; Editing by Colleen Jenkins and Will Dunham

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