Martin Luther King's Bible used

Tue, Jan 22, 2013, 00:00

The Bible used by US president Barack Obama at his inauguration yesterday was once owned by Martin Luther King jnr. He also used Abraham Lincoln's Bible, as he did during his first inauguration four years ago.

The use of King's Bible on Martin Luther King Day (a US federal holiday on the third Monday of January) was redolent with symbolism.

King, a black civil rights leader and peace activist who was murdered in 1968, made his most famous speech - his 1963 "I have a dream" address during his March on Washington protest - at the Lincoln Memorial.

Mr Obama faced that memorial at the far end of the city's Mall when he gave his inauguration address on Capitol Hill, home of the US Congress - the Senate and House of Representatives.

Mr Obama used the Lincoln Bible while taking the oath four years ago - the first time it had been used since the 16th president's inauguration in 1861.

King's first sermon

Martin Luther King's children described their father's King James version as his travelling Bible, which he carried with him on the road and used for preparing sermons and speeches.

His daughter Bernice King said her father marked the pages with several dates from May 1954, the same month he delivered his first sermon at Dexter Avenue Baptist church in Montgomery, Alabama.

"We know our father would be deeply moved to see President Obama take the oath of office using his Bible," King's children said in a statement provided by the inaugural committee.

"His travelling Bible inspired him as he fought for freedom, justice and equality, and we hope it can be a source of strength for the president as he begins his second term."

King's Bible was restored recently by Gordon Ponsford, a sought-after conservator, who said he performed relatively minor "stabilisation" work using adhesives to attach the loose leather to the volume.

"It's an honour to think that that Bible was in King's hands at one time and has now been passed on to Obama," said Mr Ponsford.

"No amount of words can describe how thrilled I am to have worked on this project."

Historical projects

Mr Ponsford, who has been in the industry for more than 25 years, is not fazed working on major historical projects. He has restored former US president John F Kennedy's inaugural speech and has completed restoration work on gravesites of Kennedy and his brother Robert at Arlington National Cemetery near Washington.

The Irish-American vice-president, Joe Biden, used a Bible with a Celtic cross on the cover that has been in his family for 120 years.

Mr Biden has used the same Bible every time he has been sworn into federal office from his entry into the US Senate 40 years ago.