Martin Luther King Jr. Day commemorated

Haunting comments made by a remarkable man who lay dead the following day.

But what a life and legacy Martin Luther King, Jr. left us. His life made a tremendous difference.

The gifted and courageous preacher from Atlanta, Ga. moved this country forward like no other past the insular bigotry, remnants of a Civil War 100 years earlier.

Although the battle continues in many subtle ways, scholars agree that King's non-violent actions almost single-handedly changed the white pigment of this Nation to include the colors of all.

Judging by that final sermon, "I've been to the Mountaintop," King knew his time was running out, but the 13 years he gave this country publicly have impacted each one of us. His vision lives on, a man who saw past the mountain, a man who saw tolerance and understanding as minimum standards by which to live. He recognized the goodness that lies within every human being.

King will long be remembered for his remarkable fight for human rights. King was only 39 years old when gunned down April 4, 1968.

So what is the message for those of us who live in Yavapai County where white continues to prevail?

Something King's son said recently in a PBS commentary best answers that question. He said that one person can make a remarkable difference. Perhaps the difference each one of us makes will not be front-page news like King made; the differences might be more subtle — sharing time with a child, visiting the lonely and elderly, being tolerant and kind to fellow workers, extending yourself to someone who can barely speak English.

King would have been 74 years old had James Earl Ray not snuffed out his life prematurely on that Tennessee motel balcony 35 years ago.

The King Holiday in Arizona — a perilous journey to recognition

Recognizing Martin Luther King, Jr. Day or Civil Rights Day was no easy matter here in Arizona.

For newcomers who do not remember the controversy, establishing the holiday became so turbulent that actors on Saturday Night Live lampooned Arizona politicians over the subject.

This is a brief history …

• 1968: Introduction of the holiday started nationally following King's assassination in 1968 when U.S. Congressman John Conyers introduced the legislation as a federal holiday, but no action occurred at that time.

• 1972: Arizona Sen. Cloves Campbell introduced a resolution for an annual statewide observance. The resolution died in committee.

• 1973: Illinois signed into law the first state King holiday.

• 1975: and subsequent years, 1976, 1981 and 1982 bills were introduced statewide, but failed.

• 1983: The U.S. House of Representatives passed the King Holiday Bill sponsored again by Conyers and another representative, which also passed in the Senate. That same year, President Ronald Reagan signed the bill establishing the holiday the third Monday of every January, a national holiday for federal employees.

• In 1984, 1985 and 1986, bills were introduced in the Arizona House, but failed in committee/or by vote.

• 1986: Arizona Gov. Bruce Babbitt signed an executive order designating the holiday for all state employees. Attorney General Bob Corbin maintained the governor had no authority to declare a holiday that would close state offices and pay state employees.

• 1987: Babbitt's executive order was rescinded by then Gov. Evan Mecham, igniting both a state and national controversy. In the next few months, several bills were again introduced to create the King holiday, but failed. Mecham signed a proclamation for the holiday, but it was killed by Arizona Senate.

• 1987: Arizona’s failure to enact an MLK Holiday prompted the National Football League to move the Super Bowl to another state.

• 1988: Mecham was impeached Feb. 9, 1988.

• 1989: States with MLK holiday grows to 44.

• 1990: Arizona voters reject Prop. 301 (to establish King Day, a paid state holiday; Columbus Day unpaid).

• 1992: The saga ends when voters pass Prop. 300 establishing the King/Civil Rights holiday on the third Monday in January.

• 1993: Arizona observes first King holiday.

• 1999: Governor of New Hampshire signs the King Holiday legislation into law completing enactment of the holiday in all states.

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