Court ruling protects Malcolm X’s legacy

Herb Boyd | 3/1/2018, 4:33 p.m.

Except for the late Percy Sutton, few attorneys in America have had the life of Malcolm X so intertwined in their career as Gregory Reed. Whether it’s Malcolm’s memorabilia, his autobiography or its missing chapters, Reed, a prominent Detroit lawyer and founder of Keeper of the Word Foundation, is unavoidably linked to the great man’s destiny, economic and otherwise. Reed also had represented the late Dr. Betty Shabazz, Malcolm’s wife.

Recently, Reed received legal salvation when Detroit Federal Judge Matthew F. Liteman upheld the law and reversed Judge Marci McIvor’s order that allowed Malcolm X papers to be taken from attorney Richard Manson, a successor to Reed’s papers in his estate. The great iconic leader’s papers, which had been transferred to Manson, former chairman of Malcolm X Manuscript Committee of Tennessee, for literary artifact preservation and possible exhibits, were confiscated by attorney David Findling retained by Reed’s ex-wife for compensation of payments allegedly accrued from divorce proceedings.

During several interviews, Reed has claimed that the property, which belongs to one of the foundations he had founded, has nothing to do with the divorce when the transferal was made and disclosed eight years before the divorce judgment May 16, 2003. “The court records, by the way, showed in 2003 she was paid her $225,000 in cash,” Reed confirmed, “and there is a signed release filed in Wayne County Register of Deeds office that she verified the payment. What is happening here is overreach and an attempt to get a double payment at the expense of harming Malcolm’s and America’s history.” Also the alleged claim is beyond the statutory time period of 2013, Reed added.

Apparently, Liteman agreed, determining that Findling had legal no authority to confiscate the papers from Manson’s possession, where they have been for more than 20 years. Manson resides in Tennessee, the home state of the late Alex Haley who worked with Malcolm on his autobiography. Reed acquired this rare treasure trove of Malcolm and Alex Haley to preserve the great autobiographical history of Malcolm after the Haley estate put them up for auction in 1992.

According to the court’s record, the papers’ location and the owner were fully disclosed, but no one ever contacted Manson until 20 years later.

It is rather baffling that McIvor, in view of laws protecting artifacts, did not cite any legal authority and ruled to deprive Reed. “The decision she made was strange and questionable,” the Foundation board members collectively said. “McIvor’s ruling contradicted the laws governing charitable organizations in the state of Michigan and the Attorney General Bill Schuette. We are grateful Judge Liteman could see where Judge McIvor could not. There is a distinct separation between Reed’s interest and charitable assets and what belongs to the Foundation as well as what Manson’s interest is.”

Judgment awaits further disposition of other artifacts seized and when and if they will be returned to the Foundation. Meanwhile, Manson and Reed both are relieved that Malcolm’s words and legacy, at least for the moment, are not in the wrong hands.