Editorial: Honoring the departed appropriately

Feb. 17, 2014 @ 11:04 PM

In a world they helped change remarkably, their legacies are being tarnished after they have gone. Sadly, it is by their families.

We recently shared a Leonard Pitts Jr. column (“Appalling actions of King’s family,” Feb. 11), which noted the infighting of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s children. Over the weekend, an Associated Press story highlighted more familial woes of civil rights heroes.

While we don’t begrudge anyone making a dollar as best and legal as they see fit, the fights over priceless mementos is uneasy at best and shameful at worst.

Wondering why the wills didn’t take care of things? Malcolm X and King didn’t have wills in place when they were assassinated. It might not have mattered.

Rosa Parks had a will in place and no children. But nieces and nephews have challenged the will, and her belongings have been unsettled for nearly a decade since her death.

None of the three could have imagined this 21st century they sought to have us reach. They wanted equal opportunities for all. And in part because of their fearlessness and resiliency, change has come.

With that change are new opportunities.

And when it comes to the personal belongings of the famous — not just those three, it should be pointed out — opportunities also include cashing in.

The daughters of Malcolm X are suing to block a book deal. It was signed by one of their sisters and would publish their father’s diary.

Parks was given the Presidential Medal of Freedom and the Congressional Gold Medal of Honor. They’re still in a New York City warehouse and an estate court battle.

King’s personal Bible and Nobel Peace Prize are, according to his daughter, trying to be sold by his sons. She has publicly removed herself from association with her brothers. The family has fought for years.

Is there a message for those of us without a significant place in history? Absolutely.

We don’t have to be famous to have sentimental attachments within our families. And all we have to do is talk to each other, in family love, before the time comes.

And when it does, honor the departed, both in any requests and in their memory.