MARTIN LUTHER KING
Congressman John Conyers, Democrat from Michigan, first introduced legislation for a commemorative holiday four days after King was assassinated in 1968. The bill first came to a vote in the U.S. House of Representatives in 1979. However, it fell five votes short of the number needed for passage.
The King Center turned to support from the corporate community and the general public to make it a paid holiday. The success of this strategy was cemented when musician Stevie Wonder released the single "Happy Birthday" to popularize the campaign in 1980 and hosted the Rally for Peace Press Conference in 1981.
Six million signatures were collected for a petition to Congress to pass the law, termed by a 2006 article in The Nation as "the largest petition in favor of an issue in U.S. history.
At the White House Rose Garden on November 2, 1983, President Ronald Reagan signed a bill creating a federal holiday to honor King.It was observed for the first time on January 20, 1986. The bill established the Martin Luther King, Jr. Federal Holiday Commission to oversee observance of the holiday, and Coretta Scott King was made a member of this commission for life by United States President George H. W. Bush in May, 1989.
In 1990, Arizonans were given an opportunity to vote to observe an MLK holiday. McCain successfully appealed to former President Ronald Reagan to support the holiday. Prior to that date, New Hampshire and Arizona had not observed the day.
One place where this day is observed as important is in the Japanese city of Hiroshima under the mayor Tadatoshi Akiba, who holds special banquet at the mayor's office as an act of unifying his city's call for peace with King's message of human rights.