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Martin Luther King papers go for $130,000 at auction

NEW YORK — Some civil rights movement history went up for sale Thursday, as papers from the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., including speech outlines and letters, fetched more than $130,000 at auction.

They were sold by 88-year-old Maude Ballou, who worked as King’s secretary from 1955 to 1960, through the New York office of Texas-based Heritage Auctions.

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A series of handwritten notes outlining one of King’s speeches, his farewell address when he left the Dexter Avenue Baptist Church in Montgomery, Ala., was the top lot. It sold for $31,250. Two letters King wrote to Ballou from India sold for $18,750 and $17,500. More than 100 items were up for auction.

King’s estate sued the secretary’s son, Howard Ballou, in federal court in Jackson, Miss., in 2011 in a bid to take possession of the items. US District Judge Tom Lee dismissed the lawsuit in March, saying there was nothing to contradict Maude Ballou’s testimony that King gave her the material and that the statute of limitations had passed. The US Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit in New Orleans upheld the decision based on the statute of limitations.

Maude Ballou, of Ridgeland, Miss., said last month selling her collection was bittersweet. She said a portion of the proceeds would be used to establish an education fund at Alabama State University.

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