The condolence letter written by President Lyndon Johnson to the widow of Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. after his assassination heads to auction. Vanessa Johnston reports.
The letter President Lyndon Johnson wrote to the widow of Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. after his assassination heads to auction Thursday. Matthew Quinn was shocked when it surfaced at his Virginia auction house. (SOUNDBITE) (English) AUCTIONEER, MATTHEW QUINN, SAYING: "You know, we get to sell high value items all the time. Rarely do we get a hold of a piece of history." The letter had been the subject of an intense legal battle between King's children and singer Harry Belafonte... ...to whom Coretta Scott King had gifted it before she died. But now it's in the hands of Shirley and Stoney Cooks -- civil rights activists who worked with King. Cooks remembers that day in 1968 when he was killed. (SOUNDBITE) (English) LETTER'S OWNER, STONEY COOKS, SAYING: "People began to burn and riot, and so there was a state of emergency. But in the midst of all that, the president wrote a very compassionate letter to Mrs. King." "My thoughts have been with you and your children throughout this long and anguished day," Johnson wrote. "We will overcome this calamity and continue the work of justice and love that is Martin Luther King's legacy and trust to us." (SOUNDBITE) (English) LETTER'S OWNER, STONEY COOKS, SAYING: "I thought that quick response showed something about the nature of the relationship between the two men." The opening bid for the letter is $60,000. It's estimated to be worth $120,000 to $180,000. But now it's up for the bidders to decide.