Originally created 06/20/06

Atlanta wants King's papers



ATLANTA - Atlanta Mayor Shirley Franklin and former Mayor Andrew Young have been working with businessman Herman Russell and other influential residents in an effort to raise enough money to buy personal papers belonging to the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.

The collection, which includes papers, manuscripts and Dr. King's personal library, will be auctioned June 30 at Sotheby's in New York.

"I've been talking to a lot of people," said Mr. Young, who was a close aide to Dr. King during the civil rights movement. "There are a number of people trying to find ways to get a group together. But, if you can do it, you can best do it if it's kept quiet."

Ms. Franklin did not want to comment on the effort to bid on the collection, which is being sold by Dr. King's children.

"Mum is the word," she said. But added: "It's accurate to say that the King papers in Atlanta and the capital city of the South would be a slam dunk - if we could figure it out."

Emory University President Jim Wagner said the school would donate money for the bid and offer to house the documents.

Sotheby's auction house, which will put the papers on display beginning Wednesday, expects to get between $15 million and the appraised value of $30 million for the collection.

The papers span from 1946 to 1968, the most important years of Dr. King's life. They include 7,000 handwritten items, including his early Alabama sermons and a draft of the speech, I Have a Dream, which he delivered Aug. 28, 1963, at the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom.

Atlanta figured prominently in the lives of Dr. King and his family. The city is Dr. King's birthplace.

It is where his wife, Coretta Scott King, raised her four children after her husband's death. And it is where she founded the King Center for Nonviolent Social Change to carry on his teachings.

Atlanta is also where Dr. King and his wife are entombed.

"You are talking about one of the greatest human beings that ever came our way, and he happened to be a native Atlantan," said Mr. Russell. "That's why people are working so hard. We ought to keep the papers here."