Auction of King Documents Called Off

The Associated Press
Thursday, April 12, 2007; 8:39 PM

ATLANTA -- A small collection of letters, notes and speeches once believed to belong to Martin Luther King Jr. was taken off the auction block on Thursday amid protests from the civil rights leader's family.

The documents were set to be sold on Sunday at Gallery 63 on behalf of an anonymous woman said to be King's childhood friend. The woman kept the documents in a faded green folder for 40 years before trying to sell them.

"The papers need to be further evaluated before they go on the open market," said Gallery owner Paul Brown.

A much larger collection of King documents was sold by Sotheby's New York last summer for $32 million and is now owned by Morehouse College, King's alma mater.

Gallery 63 promoted its collection as about 25 "previously unknown documents" dating from the early to mid-1960s, and estimated they would sell for as much as $400,000. The documents were neither authenticated nor appraised.

Brown said the woman said she got the papers in a debt settlement with now-defunct radio station WERD, which broadcast upstairs from King's office at the Southern Christian Leadership Conference. King co-founded the organization in 1957.

King Center leader Isaac Newton Farris Jr. praised Brown for halting the paper's auction, saying Brown "truly put dignity and truthfulness ahead of profit."

Farris said more than likely the gallery papers would join the collection already at Morehouse.


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