April 8, 1968 — Four days after Dr. King is assassinated, Congressman John Conyers (D-MI) introduces first legislation providing for a Martin Luther King, Jr. Federal Holiday.
June 26, 1968 — The Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial Center is founded in Atlanta. Shortly after, King Center Founder Coretta Scott King, directs the small staff to begin planning for the first annual observance of Dr. King’s birthday.

January 15, 1969 — The King Center sponsors the first annual observance of Dr. King’s birthday and calls for nation-wide commemorations of Dr. King’s birthday. This observance becomes the model for subsequent annual commemorations of Dr. King’s birthday nation-wide.

April 1971 — Petitions gathered by SCLC bearing 3 million signatures in support of King Holiday are presented to Congress. But Congress takes no action to move holiday legislation forward.
1973 — First state King Holiday bill (sponsored by then Assemblyman Harold Washington) signed into law in Illinois.
1974 — Massachusetts and Connecticut enact statewide King Holidays.

1975 — New Jersey State Supreme Court rules that its state must provide a paid holiday in honor of Dr. King in accordance with the state government’s labor contract with the New Jersey State Employees Association.

November 4, 1978 — National Council of Churches calls on Congress to pass King Holiday.

February 19, 1979 — Coretta Scott King testifies before the Senate Judiciary Committee hearings in behalf of the King Holiday.

March 27, 1979 — Mrs. King testifies before Joint Hearings of Congress in support of King Holiday bill.

1979 — Mrs. King directs King Center staff to begin intensive organizing of a nation-wide citizens lobby for a national Martin Luther King, Jr. Holiday.

1980 — Stevie Wonder releases “Happy Birthday,” a song celebrating Dr. King and urging a holiday in his honor. It becomes a hit and a rallying cry for the holiday.

1982 — The King Center calls for and mobilizes a conference to commemorate and serve as cosponsors of the 19th anniversary of the March on Washington. More than 100 organizations participated. King Center mobilizes coalition to lobby for the holiday. Stevie Wonder funds holiday lobbying office and staff based in Washington, D.C.

1982 — Mrs. King and Stevie Wonder present King Center petitions bearing more than 6 million signatures in support of King Holiday to Tip O’Neil, Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives.

August 1983 — The House of Representatives passes King Holiday Bill, providing for the King Holiday to be observed on the third Monday in January. The bill, which is sponsored by Reps. Katie Hall (D.-IN) and Jack Kemp (R-NY), passes by a vote of 338 to 90.

August 27, 1983 — King Center convenes the “20th Anniversary March on Washington,” supported by more than 750 organizations. More than 500,000 people attend the March at the Lincoln Memorial, and all of the speakers call on the U.S. Senate and President Reagan to pass the King Holiday.

November 3, 1983 — President Reagan signs bill establishing the third Monday of every January as the Martin Luther King, Jr. National Holiday, beginning in 1986.

January 20, 1986 — First national King Holiday Observed. By this time 17 states had official King holidays. The King Holiday Commissioners are sworn in by federal district Judge Horace Ward.

January 16, 1989 — As a result of leadership of the King Holiday Commission, the number of states which enacted a MLK holiday grows to 44.

January 1993 — Arizona observes first statewide King holiday, leaving only New Hampshire without a state holiday in honor of Dr. King.

August 23, 1994 — President Clinton signs the Martin Luther King, Jr. Federal Holiday and Service Act, expanding the mission of the holiday as a day of community service, interracial cooperation and youth anti-violence initiatives.

June 7, 1999 — Governor Jean Shaheen of New Hampshire signs the King Holiday legislation into law, completing enactment of holiday in all states.

October 29, 1999 — U.S. Senate unanimously passes legislation requiring federal institutions to fly the U.S. flag on the Martin Luther King, Jr. Holiday.

Today ­— The King holiday is celebrated in U.S. installations and is observed by local groups in more than 100 other nations. Trinidad and other nations have also established a holiday in honor of Dr. King.