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Martin Luther King Day Roller Coaster History In Arizona

January 15
05:36 2018
I Have A Dream, the Famous Speech of Martin Luther King

I Have A Dream, the Famous Speech of Martin Luther King at Lincoln Memorial

An official federal holiday, Martin Luther King Day had a roller coaster history in Arizona.  Monday marks Martin Luther King Day to commemorate the African-American Civil Rights civil rights leader.  A pastor, activist, humanitarian, and Nobel Price Laureate, Martin Luther King successfully protested racial discrimination in federal and state law.  Martin Luther King Day marks the birthday of Martin Luther King, Jr. and is observed on the third Monday of January each year, which is around the time of King’s birthday, January 15.

At the age of thirty-five, Martin Luther King, Jr., was the youngest man to have received the Nobel Peace Prize. When notified of his selection, he announced that he would turn over the prize money of $54,123 to the furtherance of the civil rights movement.

King received death threats constantly due to his prominence in the civil rights movement. As a consequence of these threats, he confronted death constantly, making it a central part of his philosophy and speeches. He believed, and taught that murder could not stop the struggle for equal rights.  Martin Luther King was assassinated in Memphis, Tennessee on April 4, 1968, at the age of 39.

Reagan Signs MLK Day into Law

Martin Luther King

Martin Luther King

On November 2, 1983, President Ronald Reagan signed a bill creating a federal holiday to honor King.  President Ronald Reagan originally opposed the holiday, citing cost concerns. Martin Luther King Day was observed for the first time on January 20, 1986.  At first, some states resisted observing the holiday as such, giving it alternative names or combining it with other holidays.  In 1993, Regan signed the measure into law, after it passed with a 338 to 90 margin in favor in the House of Representatives.  It was officially observed in all 50 states for the first time in 2000.

King Day’s Rescission by Arizona Governor Mecham

Former Arizona Governor Bruce Babbitt created the holiday by executive order just before he left office in 1986, but Mecham, armed with an attorney general’s opinion that Babbitt’s order was illegal, rescinded it days after he took office as Governor. Senator John McCain voted against the creation of the holiday to honor King, and later defended Arizona Republican Governor Evan Mecham’s rescission of the state holiday in honor of King created by his Democratic predecessor Babbitt. After his opposition grew increasingly unpopular, McCain reversed his position, and encouraged his home state of Arizona to recognize the holiday despite opposition from Mecham.

Mecham later set aside the third Sunday in January as an unpaid holiday to honor King, but it never was recognized by supporters of a paid holiday. Mecham was impeached and removed from office for unrelated actions in 1988.

Arizona Loses Opportunity to Host Superbowl

Martin Luther King DreamIn 1989, the Arizona state legislature replaced Columbus Day with the King holiday. In 1993, Arizonans were given the opportunity to vote to observe an MLK holiday. The Arizona state legislature passed a measure to keep both Columbus Day and Martin Luther King Day, but it was too late as 76% of voters rejected the King holiday.

Super Bowl XXVII was originally scheduled to be played at Sun Devil Stadium in Tempe, Arizona, the home of the Phoenix Cardinals.But in 1990, after Arizona voters rejected the ballot initiative to create a Martin Luther King, Jr. Day holiday, the NFL voted to yank Super Bowl XXVII from Arizona under pressure from civil rights groups and from the NFL Players’ Association. The Super Bowl was instead held in the Rose Bowl in Pasadena, California.

Utah MLK Day

In Utah, the holiday was known as “Human Rights Day” until 2000, when the Utah State Legislature voted to change the name of the holiday from Human Rights Day to Martin Luther King, Jr. Day. In that same year Governor Michael O. Leavitt signed the bill officially naming the holiday “Martin Luther King, Jr. Day”.

Federal and State MLK Day Closures

Monday will be a time for many to pause and consider the life and legacy of the late civic-rights leader.  Enjoy the day if you have it off!

  • Banks and financial markets are closed.
  • City, County, Federal, and State offices and departments are closed
  • Libraries are closed.
  • Courts are closed
  • No mail delivery on Monday.
  • Schools are closed.


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