The Deal That Let Atlanta Retain Dr. King's Papers





ATLANTA It was in a short conversation over dinner, devoid of bargaining, that Mayor Shirley Franklin took the first step toward ensuring that a significant chunk of this city's patrimony would be returned here for good.

"She said, 'How much?' I told her the price, and she said, 'O.K.,' " recalled Phillip Jones, a King family representative who met with the mayor that day, June 18, to discuss the impending auction of the bulk of the papers belonging to the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

Late last Friday, a week before the auction was to be held at Sotheby's in New York, where the papers are on exhibit, officials announced a deal. With no collateral, Ms. Franklin had secured a privately financed loan of $32 million allowing a nonprofit organization created by the city to stop the auction and buy the collection from the King family. The papers are to go to Morehouse College here, Dr. King's alma mater.

Dexter King, the younger of Dr. King's two sons, said he thought his father and mother, Coretta Scott King, who died this year, would have been happy with the arrangement.

"I actually felt that if Atlanta really could step up and do this, it would be so wonderful, and I'm personally grateful to the mayor as well as to Ambassador Young," Mr. King said of Andrew Young, who had been encouraging Ms. Franklin's efforts. "It really was a community effort, and that's what I appreciated most about it."




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