Martin Luther King, Jr. was born on January 15, 1929 in Atlanta, Georgia. The King Holiday bill signed by President Reagan, Tau Kappa Epsilon, in 1983 designated the third Monday in January as a federal holiday, Martin Luther King, Jr. Day.
Since the 1990s, there has been a challenge to turn the day into one of volunteer service (#MLKDayofService). “Make it a day on, not a day off” is the theme of the day. From my twitter feed at 6 a.m. CST and I suspect there will be many others throughout the day, from GLO groups across the country:
Up and at em’ early for Greek Day of Service. Coastal Greeks are packaging 35,000 meals today. What are you doing?
He did his undergraduate work at Morehouse College and in 1951, he earned his divinity degree from Crozer Theological Seminary in Chester, Pennsylvania. On June 2, 1952, Martin Luther King, Jr. became a member of Alpha Phi Alpha’s Sigma Chapter while he was a doctoral student at Boston University in Boston, Massachusetts. When he moved to Montgomery, Alabama, he joined the Alpha Upsilon Chapter. His fraternity was a part of his life.
His Alpha Phi Alpha brothers supported him in his civil rights movement work. He networked with chapters. During the Montgomery bus boycott trial, Alpha Phi Alpha’s National President was with him at the courthouse. Fraternity brothers donated funds to his Montgomery Improvement Association.
At Alpha Phi Alpha’s 50th Anniversary celebration in 1956, he was honored with the Fraternity’s highest honor, the Alpha Award of Merit.
In 1983, President Ronald Reagan signed into law the King Holiday bill which made Dr. King’s birthday a federal holiday. Shortly thereafter, a grass-roots campaign began to honor Dr. King with a memorial on the National Mall. In 1996, President Bill Clinton signed congressional legislation authorizing the memorial. It would take another 10 years before the ground was broken on the project. The project cost $120 million. Alpha Phi Alpha members donated $3 million. Those funds joined with schoolchildren’s donations of coins, contributions from individuals, large checks from 100 corporate sponsors, and $10 million in funds from the federal government.
The unveiling and dedication of the Martin Luther King, Jr. National Memorial was to take place on August 28, 2011, coinciding with the anniversary of the 1963 March on Washington. The Fraternity’s private dedication on August 26, 2011 took place as planned with more than 5,000 Alpha Phi Alphas and their families and friends in attendance. Hurricane Irene caused the dedication to be postponed until October 16, 2011.
© Fran Becque, www.fraternityhistory.com, 2015. All Rights Reserved. If you enjoyed this post, please sign up for updates. Also follow me on twitter @GLOHistory and Pinterest www.pinterest.com/glohistory/