MLK Day a federal holiday has roots in Chicago

History - WWETV Admin

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CHICAGO WGN NEWS — Although the campaign for a national holiday was ignited shortly after Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s assassination, it took time and persistence until it was officially observed in 1986.

Chicago pastor Rev. Rich Redman said it all started with a song.

“It all started with Stevie Wonder, I mean that song just swept the nation,” he said.

Redman is referring to Wonder’s 1980 hit “Happy Birthday,” which was dedicated to nationalizing King’s birthday.

At the time, Redmond served as a PR director for the South Side’s NAACP branch. During an interview with Stevie Wonder, he asked the music icon how he could get on board to strategically help nationalize King’s birthday.

“After we went off air, he gave me a contact to a person he hired another publicist out of Washington D.C. by the name of O’Field Dukes,” Redmond said.

“In 1968, Harold Washington actually sponsored a bill in the Illinois Assembly he was state rep. at the time and in that sponsorship he was able to make Illinois the first state in the union to have a holiday,” Redmond said.