Martin Luther King Jr. Day, a federal holiday, is almost here, though King’s actual birthday was on January 15.
The holiday falls on January 20, 2014.
The holiday always falls on the third Monday of January.
Efforts to make a holiday in memory of King took years of work by activists and others. King was assassinated in 1968 on April 8. Four days later, Congressman John Conyers (D-MI) introduced legislation to make a federal holiday in memory of him.
The King Center sponsored the first annual observance of King’s birthday on January 15, 1969.
Petitions promoted by supporters in 1971 got three million signatures in support of the holiday and were presented to Congress, but Congress took no action on the matter.
States began enacting statewide recognition of a holiday in honor of King, beginning with Massachusetts and Connecticut in 1974.
The bill introduced by Conyers is finally voted on in 1979 but defeated in a floor vote in the House of Representatives by five votes.
After much petitioning by King’s wife Coretta and other supporters, another bill is passed in 1983, which calls for the holiday to be observed on the third Monday in January every year.