Martin Luther King Jr. Day is one of two federal holidays we celebrate in January (the other being New Year`s Day). Here`s the story of how it started. A few weeks before the march, the House of Representatives passed a bill creating King`s Day by an overwhelming majority of 338 to 90. But subsequent debate in the Senate on the bill was nonetheless controversial and lasted until the fall of 1983. North Carolina Sen. Jesse Helms sought to tarnish King`s reputation by demanding the release of Federal Bureau of Investigation surveillance tapes on King that had been sealed by court order through 2027, while other senators complained that another paid leave would be too costly. Senator Edward M. Kennedy (D-MA) vigorously defended King against Helms` allegations, noting that no evidence of King`s ties to the Communist Party had been found. When the Senate finally voted on the bill on October 19, the occupied galleries were home to many prominent supporters of the holiday, including Coretta Scott King, SCLC President Joseph E. Lowery and National Association for the Advancement of Colored People Executive Director Benjamin Hooks.
The Brexit bill was finally approved by a vote of 78 to 22 (37 Republicans and 41 Democrats voted in favour; 18 Republicans and 4 Democrats voted against). Arizona voters approved King`s Day two years later. King Holiday lost in a two-part referendum and the NFL carried out its threat, bringing the Super Bowl to Southern California and costing the state about $500 million in revenue. Supporters of the holiday banded together and intensified their efforts. Musician Stevie Wonder helped in 1981 by releasing the song “Happy Birthday” to promote the party. (He later sang it at Martin Luther King, Jr.`s memorial dedication in 2011.) In 1986, Arizona Governor Bruce Babbitt, a Democrat, created a holiday paid by MLK in Arizona shortly before leaving office, but in 1987, his Republican successor, Evan Mecham, citing an attorney general`s opinion that Babbitt`s order was illegal, overturned Babbitt`s decision days after taking office. Later that year, Mecham declared the third Sunday in January to be “Martin Luther King Jr./Civil Rights Day” in Arizona, despite being an unpaid holiday. This proposal was rejected by the state Senate the following year.  In 1990, Arizona voters were given the opportunity to vote to grant MLK paid leave to state employees.
That same year, the National Football League threatened to postpone Super Bowl XXVII, scheduled for 1993 in Arizona, if the MLK holiday was rejected.  In the November election, voters were offered two King Day options: Proposition 301, which replaced Columbus Day on the list of paid holidays, and Proposition 302, which combined the birthdays of Lincoln and Washington into a single paid holiday to make way for MLK Day. Both measures failed, with only 49% of voters agreeing with Proposition 302, the more popular of the two options; Although some who voted “no” out of 302 voted “yes” for Proposition 301. As a result, the state lost the chance to host Super Bowl XXVII, which was then held at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena, California.  In a referendum in 1992, voters, this time with only one option for a paid King`s Day, agreed to recognize the holiday by the state.  “The campaign to get the party began almost immediately after his assassination, and people worked on it long before that happened,” said Honey, who wrote “Going Down Jericho Road: The Memphis Strike, Martin Luther King`s Last Campaign.” 50 years later: What does it mean for the people of the Lorraine Motel to witness martyrdom when MLK was killed? It wasn`t until 2000 that every state in the Union finally celebrated Martin Luther King Jr. Day. Today, the holiday is still celebrated in conjunction with a celebration of Confederate personalities in some states — but after decades of conflict and controversy, it is being monitored. Other unions successfully negotiated the day off in the 1970s, including for teachers in Chicago and Indianapolis public schools.
At that time, the Martin Luther King, Jr. Center for Nonviolent Social Change — also known as the King Center, founded by King`s widow, Coretta Scott King — strengthened its ties with the nation`s largest labor federation, the American Federation of Labor and the Congress of Industrial Organizations, which put their political influence behind the party. President Jimmy Carter, who was popular with unions and black voters, advocated making King`s birthday a national holiday in 1979 and also commissioned a commemorative stamp for his 50th birthday. While all states now observe the holiday, some have not named the day after King. For example, in New Hampshire, the holiday was known as “Civil Rights Day” until 1999, when the state legislature decided to change the name of the holiday to Martin Luther King Day.  Ontario`s municipal government officially recognizes Martin Luther King Jr. Day, but not as a paid holiday: all government services and businesses remain open.  The municipal government of Ottawa, Ontario, officially began celebrating this national holiday on January 26, 2005.  Private employers are not required by the federal or state government to grant leave to their employees, but some choose to do so. Each year, there is a slight increase over the previous year for private sector employers, making this day a paid holiday for their employees. About 33% of private employers currently give their employees a paid day off.
It is most popular as a paid day off with nonprofits and least popular with employers in factories and manufacturing. Most schools, including colleges and universities, close during the holidays. The few who don`t usually hold seminars about King or celebrate him during the holidays. I would have preferred a non-feast in honor of the king, but since they seem to intend to make it a national holiday, I believe that the symbolism of this day is important enough for me to sign this law when it arrives on my desk. President Ronald Reagan signed the holiday in 1983 and was celebrated annually on the third Monday in January. King was born in 1929 and has a birthday on January 15. The festival was first observed in 1986. However, the campaign for the party did not end with this vote. The King Center, named after Martin Luther King Jr.
and dedicated itself to continuing its civil rights work, began promoting the idea of public vacations. Singer Stevie Wonder released a single called “Happy Birthday” in 1980 to promote the campaign, and he hosted the Peace Rally press conference in 1981. Eventually, six million signatures were collected in a petition to be submitted to Congress to establish the holiday. These efforts were later ranked as the largest petition in U.S. history. The introduction of a national holiday in honor of Martin Luther King Jr. marked the culmination of a long campaign that began shortly after King`s assassination and ended on November 2, 1983, with the signing of a bill by President Ronald Reagan. Public Law 98-144 declared the third Monday in January an annual federal holiday in King`s honor, and the first official celebration was held on September 20. January 1986. In 1979, on King`s 50th birthday, the bill finally passed the House of Representatives.
But even with a petition of 300,000 signatures, the support of President Jimmy Carter and the testimony of King`s widow, Coretta Scott King, the bill was still defeated by five votes in the House of Representatives. Missouri Republican Congressman Gene Taylor led the opposition, citing the cost of an additional federal holiday and traditions that exclude individuals from recognition with holidays named in their honor. Arizona wasn`t the only recalcitrant state, though it was perhaps one of the most notorious. (Hip-hop icons Public Enemy helped bring the state`s MLK Day controversy into the national conversation with the 1991 song “By the Time I Get to Arizona.”) New Hampshire first called the January holiday “Civil Rights Day” when it was first recognized in 1991 before being celebrated as Martin Luther King Jr.