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Lawsuit over Martin Luther King documents thrown out

By Robbie Ward

STARKVILLE, Mississippi (Reuters) - A federal judge in Mississippi dismissed a lawsuit on Friday filed by the estate of Martin Luther King Jr. claiming ownership of documents in the possession of the son of the slain civil rights leader's former personal secretary.

District Court Judge Tom Lee in Jackson ruled in favor of television reporter Howard Ballou, whose mother, Maude Ballou, had worked as King's personal secretary.

Lee said the King estate offered no evidence to contradict Maude Ballou's assertion that King gave the documents to her. Maude Ballou said she gave the documents to her son after the death of her husband, Leonard Ballou.

The estate said in court documents that Howard Ballou possessed copies of King's speeches, photographs and other important documents that belonged to the private corporation run on behalf of the civil rights leader's family.

The documents were discovered in 2007 after the death of Leonard Ballou, who stored them in the basement of the library of Elizabeth City State University in North Carolina, where he worked as an archivist.

King, who won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1964, was assassinated in 1968 as he stood outside his motel room in Memphis, Tennessee, where he had gone to support striking sanitation workers.

(Editing By Cynthia Johnston and Will Dunham)

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