Commemoration of Martin Luther King, Jr. 

On November 2, 1983, former President Ronald Reagan signed into law House of Representatives Bill Number 3706 declaring January 15, the birthday of Martin Luther King, Jr., a national holiday.

In December 1985, former Penn State President Bryce Jordan formed a President’s planning committee for Martin Luther King, Jr. recognition. Dr. James B. Stewart, director of the Black Studies Program at that time, served as the inaugural chair. The official recognition of this holiday began in 1986, and occurs on the third Monday in January each year.

Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr. was born in 1929, the second of three children. Early in his life, Reverend King recognized the evils of segregation and racial prejudice. He was an outstanding student throughout his years in school and went on to receive his Bachelor of Divinity degree in June of 1951. In a speech given during the ceremonies at the White House when Reverend King’s birthday became a recognized national holiday, Mrs. King touched the heart of our nation as she summarized her husband’s life: “In his own life’s example, he symbolized what was right about America, what was noblest and best, what human beings have loved unconditionally. He was in constant pursuit of truth, and when he discovered it, he embraced it. His nonviolent campaigns brought about redemption, reconciliation and justice.” America is a more democratic nation, a more just nation, a more peaceful nation because Martin Luther King, Jr. became her preeminent nonviolent commander.

Past Chairs

  • Dr. Michael Wood (2017 – 2018)
  • Dr. Moses K. Davis (2015 – 2017)
  • Dr. Marcus A. Whitehurst (2007 – 2015)
  • Dr. Thomas G. Poole (1998 – 2007)
  • Dr. James B. Stewart (1992 – 1998)
  • Dr. Grace Hampton (1986 – 1992)
  • Dr. James B. Stewart (1985 – 1986)