Home / Full timeline / Political, civil rights, and religious leaders throughout the nation lead commemorations of the third national holiday in honor of civil rights leader Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
Political, civil rights, and religious leaders throughout the nation lead commemorations of the third national holiday in honor of civil rights leader Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
1988 (Jan 18)
Political, civil rights, and religious leaders throughout the nation led commemorations of the third national holiday in honor of civil rights leader Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. They generally urged Americans to renew King's struggle against injustice and intolerance of any kind. In Phoenix, Arizona, thousands marched through the downtown area demanding that the King holiday be restored. In 1987, Governor Evan Meacham had repealed the state's observance of the holiday. This action was the first of many that led to an effort to remove him from office. During the demonstration, Phoenix Mayor Terry Goddard observed that "it is time to stop having the rest of the country think of us as the site of a three-ring circus." In Los Angeles, California, celebrities and politicians led a group of singers, marching bands, and floats down a boulevard named for King to Exposition Park. In Boston, Massachusetts, Senator Edward Kennedy,commented that it was a "national disgrace that social justice [was] in retreat.” He added, “bankrupt national policies have spawned a national environment that encourages discrimination and repudiates opportunity.” In Gretna, Florida, Governor Bob Martinez led 250 marchers in a driving rain through the streets of a poverty-ridden Black neighborhood. The Republican governor told the crowd that he had felt the efforts of King's work himself. Martinez recalled that he had been told years ago that he could never become mayor of Tampa because he was both Roman Catholic and Hispanic. At Yokota Air Base in Japan, 150 Black airmen and civilians gathered on a baseball field to re-enact King's famous "I Have a Dream" speech. Jackie Chambers, a secretary at the base, recited the oration. During the ceremony Chambers stated that King “gave me the opportunity to get an education, and he's always given me the opportunity to progress.” Sergeant Earl Richard, a native of New Orleans, Louisiana, commented, “I think he made a difference in everybody's life, no matter who you are, if you are an American." In Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, Rosa Parks, whom King once called "the great fuse" of the civil rights movement for her role in the Montgomery, Alabama, bus boycott of 1955, was given a replica of the Liberty Bell during ceremonies honoring King in that city. Finally, in Memphis, Tennessee, a wreath was laid at the steps of the Lorraine Motel where King was mortally wounded in 1968. Blues musicians played “When the Saints Go Marching In," and Jacqueline Smith, a motel resident who refused to leave to make way for the construction of a civil rights museum on the site, was generously applauded when she simply said “Happy birthday, Dr. King."