ATLANTA — When Barack Obama raises his right hand on Jan. 21 to “faithfully execute the office of president," his left hand will be resting on a worn black leather Bible, with a slight tear on the cover, that normally resides under glass in the King Center in Atlanta.
The Presidential Inaugural Committee announced this week that a Bible Martin Luther King Jr. carried with him during his rise as a civil rights leader will be one of two used at the Jan. 21 inauguration. The other one was used by Abraham Lincoln during his first inauguration in 1861 and by Obama in 2009.
The use of their Bibles come on the 50th anniversary of the King-led March on Washington and 150th anniversary of Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation.
“These two Bibles represent the stride for freedom. One represents emancipation; the other represents inclusion into the fabric of the American experience," said King’s daughter, Bernice King. “My father was a civil rights leader, but this reminds us that he was first and foremost, a pastor. Everything he did was influenced by the Bible."
The Bible was one of several books King carried with him as he moved around the country. It is believed to be one of only two known King Bibles to still exist. The other is on display at Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport.
Bernice King, who followed her father into the pulpit, has studied his Bible and believes he used it more for meditation. Throughout the text, he made detailed notes, including dates attached to specific verses. The earliest was 1954, the same year he became pastor of Dexter Avenue Baptist Church in Montgomery, Ala.
“You can tell it was used a lot," said Bernice King, adding that she received a call from the PIC around two weeks ago indicating that Obama was interested in using King’s Bible.
Bernice King, who is CEO of the King Center, will not be joining her family at the inauguration because of local holiday commitments. But she will be watching.