JACKSON, Miss.--Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. is honored with a holiday each year. In Mississippi that means city and county government offices, state government and banks are shut down. Many believe it is not a day off, however, and should be utilized for community service.
The national Martin Luther King Day of Servicewas started by former Pennsylvania U.S. Senator Harris Worford and Atlanta Congressman John Lewis, who co-authored the King Holiday and Service Act. The federal legislation challenges Americans to transform the King Holiday into a day of citizen action volunteer service in honor of Dr. King. The federal legislation was signed into law by Pres. Bill Clinton on Aug. 23, 1994.
King was assinated in 1968 in Memphis after a decade of leading peaceful Civil Rights Era protests for equality in the south. James Earl Ray was arrested and charged with the crime.
It was 30 years ago today that Pres. Ronald Reagan signed the law that created the federal holiday. Reagan initially opposed the holiday, as did others for a variety of reasons. One was that a private citizen, who had never held public office was being honored. Others considered adding a new federal holiday, a paid day off for employees, too expensive.
Opposition decreased as it became more obvious the bill would be passed.
Mississippi shares the holiday with the celebration of Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee's birthday on Jan. 19. Lee is revered as a state's rights figure, who reluctantly fought on the Confederate side in the war out of devotion to his home state of Virginia.