The Numismatic Bibliomania Society



The E-Sylum: Volume 17, Number 27, June 29, 2014, Article 12


This week a Congressional Gold Medal was posthumously awarded to Martin Luther King Jr. and Coretta Scott King. Here's an excerpt from a Washington Post article on the ceremony. -Editor

king-medal-obv king-medal-rev

Fifty years after their instrumental role in the passage of the Civil Rights Act, the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. and Coretta Scott King were posthumously awarded the Congressional Gold Medal, the nation’s highest civilian honor, on Tuesday.

The presentation of the medal for the Kings -- considered the foremost leaders of the 1960s Civil Rights movement that won black Americans equal voting rights and fought to free them from institutional segregation in the Jim Crow South – comes a year after Congress gave the honor to the “Four Little Girls” killed in the 1963 Birmingham church bombing, a pivotal moment in the movement.

"We gather here in the Capitol to honor Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and his beloved wife, Coretta Scott King, one of the most distinguished and admired husband and wife teams of the 21st century," said Rep. John Lewis (D-Ga.), himself a leader in the Civil Rights movement. "Often history remembers speeches of facts and figures, but I cannot forget their love. From their union came an enduring strength that carried many of us through the darkest days of the movement."

Other Civil Rights-era figures who have been honored with the Congressional Gold Medal include Rosa Parks (1999), who became the face of the Montgomery, Ala., bus boycott when she refused to leave her seat and move to the back of the bus, a section reserved for blacks, and Dorothy Height (2004), one of the most prominent women of the movement, who organized “Wednesdays in Mississippi,” a dialogue series in which northern women traveled to southern cities to work to foster harmony during the contentious civil rights years.

The Kings were initially awarded the medal in 2004, but Coretta Scott King passed away before she could receive the medal. Congress then needed to re-pass legislation so that the physical medal could be given to the Smithsonian.

What kind of gift is that? If you're giving someone a Congressional Gold Medal, shouldn't you actually GIVE them a GOLD medal? In the King case both recipients were deceased, but why can't a family member accept the medal? Is that in the underlying law? Or does it just depend on how the act authorizing each particular medal is written?

It's a huge honor regardless, but it looks like the government is giving itself (The Smithsonian) a gold medal, not the recipients.

In the case of multiple recipients such as the Code Talkers, it naturally doesn’t make economic sense to strike medals in gold for every last person in the group. But to not actually give out a gold medal to anyone or any organization cheapens the whole affair. Maybe we should print up T-Shirts saying "I went to Washington to accept a Congressional Gold Medal and all I got was this shirt and a bronze replica they sell in the gift shop for 40 bucks." -Editor

To read the complete Washington Post article, see: Congressional Gold Medal awarded to the Rev. Martin Luther and Coretta Scott King (

During a ceremony held yesterday at the Capitol Rotunda, the Congressional Gold Medal was posthumously awarded to Martin Luther King, Jr. and Coretta Scott King. The medal was accepted by Lonnie Bunch, founding director of the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture.

The obverse design of the medal features portraits of Dr. King and Coretta Scott King. Their names appear inscribed above, along with “Act of Congress 2004″. A banner at the base carries the inscription “For Their Service to Humanity”.

The reverse design features the image of the Martin Luther King, Jr. Center for Nonviolent Social Change. Below the image is a quote from Dr. King reflecting his beliefs of nonviolent social change. The lower half of the medal is encircled by a laurel wreath. The quote reads: “I suggest that the philosophy and strategy of nonviolence become immediately a subject for study for serious experimentation in every field of human conflict, by no means excluding the relations between nations. This may well be mankind’s last chance to choose between chaos and community.”

The United States Mint is offering bronze reproductions of the Congressional Gold Medal. The 3-inch bronze medal is priced at $39.95 and the 1.5-inch bronze medal is priced at $6.95. The bronze medals went on sale today, June 25, 2014.

To read the complete article on the Mint News Blog, see: Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and Coretta Scott King Bronze Medal (

Wayne Homren, Editor

NBS ( Web

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