Obama Picks Lincoln, MLK Bibles for Inauguration

Jan 10, 2013 11:34am
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On the day of the Inaugural ceremony, President Obama will take the oath of office on two historic Bibles–one that belonged to Abe Lincoln and the other to Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

The Presidential Inaugural Committee announced Thursday that the president would swear in on both Bibles.

Because they are so fragile, both Bibles will be closed and stacked on top of each other, a PIC official said.

King used his Bible “for inspiration and preparing sermons and speeches,” according to the PIC.

“We know our father would be deeply moved to see President Obama take the Oath of Office using his bible,” Dr. King’s children said in a statement distributed by the PIC. “His ‘traveling 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.”

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Obama used Lincoln’s Bible for his first Inaugural ceremony in 2009. It belongs to the Library of Congress.

Photos of the Bible opened to the page signed by Supreme Court Clerk William Thomas Carroll, who gave Lincoln the Bible, are available on the Library of Congress’ blog. It is 4.5 centimeters thick.

Rare book collector William Reese said the Lincoln Bible is much larger than the King Bible and would have been called a “family Bible” in its time. Unlike King’s Bible, it would have been too big to carry around.

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In the 19th century household, Reese said Bibles like Lincoln’s “often would have been read out loud to the family on Sunday” whereas the PIC said King’s traveled with him on the road.

The two Bibles would not be historically important, except for their remarkable owners, according to Reese.

“All their significance really stems from these great men,” Reese said.

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President Obama is not the first to use more than one Bible at his swearing in, but he is the first since Dwight D. Eisenhower to use one other than a family Bible or one given him personally during the ceremony for the public.

President Nixon used two family Bibles, open to Isaiah 2:4, for both his Inaugural ceremonies, according to the Joint Congressional Committee on Inaugural Ceremonies. For Eisenhower’s first Inauguration, he used both his own West Point Bible and George Washington’s Bible.

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During a private ceremony on Sunday, Obama will use the Bible that belonged to first lady Michelle Obama’s grandmother, LaVaughn Delores Robinson.

The Robinson family Bible was a present from the first lady’s father to his mother on Mother’s Day in 1958, six years before Michelle’s birth.

Tune in to the ABC News.com Live page on Monday morning starting at 9:30 a.m. EST for all-day live streaming video coverage of Inauguration 2013: Barack Obama. Live coverage will also be available on the ABC News iPad App and mobile devices.

ABC’s Devin Dwyer contributed to this report.

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