Day of service encouraged to honor Martin Luther King Jr.
Most public offices will close Monday for Martin Luther King Day. In the Verde Valley that will include federal including the forest service. The closure will include state offices including county government agencies.
In addition most police and fire departments will only have emergency personnel on shift.
Most banks and utilities are also closed for the holiday.
Martin Luther King Jr. Day was founded as a holiday promoted by labor unions. Four days after King's assassination in 1968, black Rep. John Conyers of Michigan introduced a bill to Congress to make King's birthday a national holiday highlighting King's activism. Six million signatures were collected for a petition to Congress to pass the law. In the press it was called "the largest petition in favor of an issue in United States history.'
Public pressure for the holiday continued during the 1982 and 1983 civil rights marches in Washington.
Then, Nov. 2, 1983, President Ronald Reagan signed a bill creating a federal holiday to honor King. It was observed the first time Jan. 20, 1986.
In May 1990, the holiday was expanded from one week to one month in a measure signed by President George H.W. Bush.
But, it was not until 2000 that Martin Luther King Day was officially observed in all 50 states. Before that New Hampshire and Arizona did not observe the day and were the subject of criticism and boycotts. There were exceptions: Jerome was among the very first Arizona towns to recognize the King holiday despite the sluggishness of the state.
Al Palmieri, who was mayor of the council at the time and later became Town Clerk, signed the council's resolution. Kids involved in a Jerome art program marched down Main Street.
After a 1992 proposition to recognize the holiday in Arizona failed, the NFL boycotted hosting Super Bowl XXVII at Sun Devil Stadium in Tempe. The hip-hop group Public Enemy recorded a song critical and threatening to Arizona Governor Fife Symington and his opposition to official recognition.
The national Martin Luther King Day of Service was started by former Pennsylvania U.S. Senator Harris Wofford and Atlanta Congressman John Lewis who wrote the King Holiday and Service Act. The federal legislation encourages people to make the holiday one of volunteer service. The federal legislation was signed by President Bill Clinton in August 1994.
In Arizona, the day is called the Martin Luther King/ Civil Rights Day.
The King Day of Service is a way to transform Dr. King's life and teachings into community service that helps solve social problems, according to the federal Web site, www.mlkday.gov/.
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