January is known for Martin Luther King Jr. Day, a celebration of the civil rights leader. But much like the progress of that movement, the road to King’s holiday was long and arduous, taking 18 years before final approval. Rep. John Conyers of Michigan introduced legislation to create the federal holiday just four days after King’s assassination in 1968 at the age of 39. In 1973, Illinois became the first state to adopt a state holiday for King. Ten years later, Congress finally passed and President Ronald Reagan signed legislation creating the national holiday, which was first celebrated Jan. 20, 1986.
This year, Martin Luther King Jr. Day is Jan. 15, his birthdate, and communities throughout the region will honor King. In Leesburg, for example, the fifth annual Martin Luther King Jr. Parade is scheduled to start at 11am Saturday, Jan. 13. The multi-cultural parade and march of walkers, floats, and groups will travel on West Main Street in downtown Leesburg. Call 352.552.7540 for information.