Former President Jimmy Carter may have brokered peace between Israel and Egypt, but it appears he is falling short of bringing peace to the embattled children of Martin Luther King Jr.
Since October, Carter has served as mediator in the King siblings’ ugly court battle over the ownership of their father’s Nobel Peace Prize and the Bible he carried through the civil rights movement.
On Thursday, Fulton County Superior Court Judge Robert McBurney made clear the mediation has gone on long enough. He said it is time for the case to move forward. He will begin ruling on the pending motions that he had put aside during the lengthy attempt to settle the case.
Unless the parties settle shortly, the matter could come to trial as early as Aug. 15, the court said.
King’s two sons, Dexter Scott King and Martin Luther King III, who control the King estate, had asked a court to order their sister to surrender the two items in early 2014. They have cited a 1995 agreement that they say gave the estate ownership of all their father’s property. The brothers want to sell the items to a private buyer.
But Bernice King has opposed any sale, arguing that the two artifacts are “sacred” and should remain with the family.
Attorneys for both sides declined comment Thursday. A spokeswoman for the Carter Center also declined comment.
Judge McBurney actually ordered the warring siblings into mediation more than a year ago, in May of 2015. He set a deadline of Sept. 20 of last year to reach a resolution.
Back then, attorneys for both sides said they were close to an agreement but needed a mediator to resolve the bitter battle over King’s 23-karat gold Nobel Prize medal. King received the medal in 1964 after helping lead the bus boycott in Montgomery, Ala., and becoming a national civil rights leader. King’s family Bible was used by President Barack Obama when he was sworn into office for his second term.
The two historic artifacts could fetch millions of dollars.
When Carter signed on to mediate about eight months ago, he stepped into a deep and bitter family divide. Despite their father’s legendary zeal for peace and ability to bring together disparate forces, his three children have repeatedly clashed in a larger-than-life Southern tale of family strife. That includes at least a handful of lawsuits over the past decade.
For example, on Aug. 28, 2013, on the 50th anniversary of their father’s “I Have A Dream” speech, the brothers filed a lawsuit in Fulton County Superior Court calling for Bernice King to be placed on administrative leave as CEO of the King Center. The brothers also asked for several items in her possession to be turned over to the estate. That suit was dismissed.
Carter helped broker the 1979 treaty between Egypt and Israel. He shepherded Egyptian president Anwar Sadat and Israeli prime minister Menachem Begin through intense negotiations. Egypt became the first Arab state to officially recognize Israel, and Israel agreed to completely withdraw from the Sinai Peninsula, which Israel had captured during the Six-Day War in 1967.
Carter also helped with agreements between the U.S. and Russia over arms control. He received the Nobel Peace Prize in 2002.
The 39th president was upbeat when he began meeting with the Kings.
“They are working diligently with me,” Carter said in October of last year, “and I believe we will be able to resolve these difficult disputes once and for all.”
Carter had cut back on his activities last year due to cancer that spread from his liver to his brain. He announced the cancer in August but by December said he was cancer free.