Martin Luther King, Jr. Day
Martin Luther King, Jr, was a black civil rights leader, a minister, an advocate of non-
violence and recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize in 1964. He was born in Atlanta, Georgia, on January 15, 1929, and assassinated in Memphis, Tennessee, on April 4, 1968. Many states observed his birth as a holiday until in 1983, the Congress approved HR 3706- - a bill that made Martin Luther King, Jr. a federal public holiday, occurring on third Monday in January. The first federal observance was January 20, 1986.
Dr. King graduated from Morehouse College in 1948, with a degree in Sociology. He attended Crozer Theological Seminary in Chester, Pennsylvania and studied at the University of Pennsylvania. At the University he was elected President of the Senior Class, delivered the valedictory address, and won the Peral Plafkner Award as the most outstanding student. He also received the J. Lewis Crozer Fellowship for graduate study at the University of his choice and was awarded a Bachelor of Divinity degree from Crozer. King studied Theology at Boston University and also studied at Harvard.
Martine Luther King, Jr. was ordained a minister at the age of nineteen, in 1949, at the Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta, GA. He became the pastor of the Dexter Avenue Baptist Church in Montgomery, Alabama in 1954.
As an important figure in the Civil Rights Movement, he was arrested thirty times. He was elected President of the Montgomery Improvement Association, the organization responsible for the Montgomery Bus Boycott that lasted 381 days. He was also the founder of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference.
Dr. King was standing on the balcony of the Lorraine Motel in Memphis, Tennessee on April 4, 1968. He was there to help sanitation workers protest against low wages and bad working conditions, when he was shot by James Earl Ray. Ray was arrested in London, England on June 8, 1968 and returned to Memphis to stand trial. On March 9, 1969, Ray pled guilty before coming to trial and was sentenced to 99 years in the Tennessee State Penitentiary. Later, on December 8, 1999, a jury of twelve citizens concluded that Loyd Jowers and governmental agencies, including the City of Memphis, the State of Tennessee, and the federal government, were party to the conspiracy to assassinate Dr. martin Luther King, Jr.
On April 9, 1969, Dr. King's funeral services were held, with the President of the United States proclaiming a day of mourning. Dr. King is entombed in Freedom Plaza in Atlanta, Georgia, surrounded by the Freedom Hall Complex of the Martin Luther King, Jr. Historic Site. This 23 acre site was listed as a National Historic Landmark on May 5, 1977 and became a National Historic Site on October 10, 1980.