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Monday, January 18, 2016

It took 15 years to create the federal Martin Luther King, Jr., holiday. Congressman John Conyers, Democrat from Michigan, first introduced legislation for a commemorative holiday four days after King was assassinated in 1968. After the bill became stalled, petitions endorsing the holiday containing six million names were submitted to Congress.

Conyers and Rep. Shirley Chisholm, Democrat of New York, resubmitted King holiday legislation each subsequent legislative session. Public pressure for the holiday mounted during the 1982 and 1983 civil rights marches in Washington.

Congress passed the holiday legislation in 1983, which was then signed into law by President Ronald Reagan. A compromise moving the holiday from Jan. 15, King's birthday, which was considered too close to Christmas and New Year's, to the third Monday in January helped overcome opposition to the law.

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Today's Random Fact:

Martin Luther King Jr. was born on Jan. 15 (he would have been 87 this year). He is the only non-president to have a national U.S. holiday dedicated to him. He is also the only non-president with a memorial on the National Mall in Washington, D.C.

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Bonus Fact:

King skipped ninth and 11th grade. As a result, he went to Morehouse College at age 15.

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