(WTVM) - Only two Americans are honored with federal holidays in their names: George Washington and Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
It is an extraordinary honor reserved for just these two very special men: the father of our country and the father of the civil rights movement.
Martin Luther King Jr. Day was signed into law by President Ronald Reagan and became official in 1986, always the third Monday in January.
Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. would have turned 91 this year if an assassin’s bullet in 1968 had not ended his life as the most effective civil rights reformer.
His name was not originally Martin Luther King Jr. and there’s an interesting reason behind it. He began life as Michael King Jr., the first son of his Baptist preacher father, also originally named Michael.
But after visiting Berlin, Germany in 1931, the elder King changed his and his son’s name, deciding that the famous religious reformer Martin Luther was a more meaningful namesake.
So, both Kings, senior and junior, officially changed their birth certificates to reflect the new name, Martin Luther King.
Martin Luther King Jr. had one of his biggest civil rights successes in Montgomery, Alabama in 1956.
The world changed when Rosa Parks was arrested for staying seated at the front of what was then a legally segregated city bus. Martin Luther King Jr. led the famous bus boycott, a protest that crippled public transit in Montgomery.
King arranged for carpools to help black workers get to their jobs, leaving many buses empty and creating a big hole in city revenue.
Eventually, The Supreme Court agreed with King that segregated buses were unconstitutional.
King won and Montgomery buses were finally integrated.
Martin Luther King Jr. became the youngest Nobel Peace Prize winner; the first African-American to be Time Magazine’s Man of the Year; and the man most responsible for pushing Congress and President Johnson to make the Civil Rights and Voting Rights bills into federal law. And he did all of that by 1965 when he was just 36.
Even after this year’s observance of the King holiday, we encourage you to learn more and be inspired by MLK’s legacy, a man who accomplished so much in so little time.
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