When the late Rep. Katie Hall (D-Ind.) went to Congress in 1982, it was to finish the term of Adam Benjamin Jr., the Northwest Indiana congressman who had died suddenly of a heart attack.
But Hall, the first African American to represent Indiana in Congress, also had another goal: She wanted to add her name to the fight to make Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.'s birthday a federal holiday.
On Nov. 2, 1983, President Ronald Reagan signed into law HR3706, the King holiday bill written and introduced by Hall. Beginning in 1986, Martin Luther King Day — the first federal holiday honoring an African American — would be observed on the third Monday in January. King's birthday is Jan. 15.
"My mother was grateful for being the instrument God used to honor Dr. King with a national holiday," said attorney Junifer Hall, founder and CEO of the Katie Hall Educational Foundation in Gary, Ind. "As a very poor farm girl growing up in segregated Mississippi in the 1940s and '50s, my mother never dreamed that she would have the chance to serve as a member of the U.S. House of Representatives."
Since that bill signing 35 years ago, the King holiday has evolved. In 1994, President Bill Clinton signed a law designating it a National Day of Service. By 2000, all 50 states recognized it as well. South Carolina and New Hampshire were the last holdouts.