Martin Luther King Jr. Signed Letter Highlights Tony Bennett Auction

Fans of Tony Bennett will soon be able to own a piece of the legendary crooner’s collection. Julien’s Auctions is selling hundreds of items once owned by Bennett in an auction next month. The highlight of the “Tony Bennett: A Life Well-Lived” auction: a typed letter signed by civil rights icon Martin Luther King Jr.

Letter written by Martin Luther King Jr. to Tony Bennett.
Letter written by Martin Luther King Jr. to Tony Bennett. (credit: Julien’s Auctions)

Bennett took part in the Selma march to Montgomery in March 1965, after actor and activist Harry Belafonte asked him to participate. When King and thousands of demonstrators arrived at Alabama’s state Capitol, Bennett greeted and performed for them.

“A typed letter signed with autograph postscript, from Martin Luther King, Jr. dated April 5, 1965. This letter of thanks and appreciation was written eleven days after King led thousands of nonviolent demonstrators to the steps of the capitol in Montgomery, Alabama after a 54 mile march from Selma, Alabama that took five days,” writes Julien’s Auction in the description lot. “Tony Bennett, along with Harry Belafonte and Lena Horne entertained the crowds of demonstrators.”

The letter is estimated to fetch between $20,000 to $30,000.

Bennett got involved in the civil rights movement after seeing Black musicians Nat King Cole and Duke Ellington being denied access to hotels and concert hall dining rooms during the 1950s, NBC News reports.

“I’d never been politically inclined, but these things went beyond politics,” Bennett wrote in his autobiography “The Good Life.” “Nate and Duke were geniuses, brilliant human beings who gave the world some of the most beautiful music it’s ever heard, and yet they were treated like second-class citizens. The whole situation enraged me.”

There are also a number of sports memorabilia from Bennett’s collection that’s being offered. They include:

  • Joe DiMaggio signed portrait baseball
  • Duke Snider signed commemorative 1955 Brooklyn Dodgers world championship baseball
  • George Steinbrenner handwritten note
  • Yogi Berra handwritten note
  • Berra and Whitey Ford signed baseballs
Joe DiMaggio signed baseball for Tony Bennett
Joe DiMaggio signed baseball for Tony Bennett. (credit: Julien’s Auctions)

“The world was blessed beyond words to have had the incomparable Tony Bennett in it,” says David Goodman, CEO of Julien’s Auctions, in a media release. “He changed the world with his artistry, humanitarianism, and one-of-a-kind voice that transcended generations. Julien’s is honored to represent his Estate and celebrate Mr. Bennett’s extraordinary legacy at this once in a lifetime auction event.”

Fans will get a chance to view Bennett’s remarkable collection during two exhibitions. One will be at the Fairmount Hotel in San Francisco from April 1-12, and the other will happen at Jazz at Lincoln Center in New York from April 10-16.

The auction will be held Thursday, April 18, and Friday, April 19, at Jazz at Lincoln Center. Collectors can attend in person or online at A star-studded gala will also be taking place to honor Bennett.

Bennett, a 20-time Grammy winner, passed away at the age of 96 last July.

Click here to view all the lots available for the “Tony Bennett: A Life Well-Lived” auction.

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