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Historic signing of MLK National Holiday Law remembered
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Story Posted:04/03/2014

For countless Americans, April 4 always will be the day associated with the assassination of the Rev. Dr. Martin King, Jr., a tragedy on par with the killings of U.S. presidents.

Dr. King’s death prompted the successful community and political drive to establish a national holiday in his honor. When the late President Ronald Reagan signed the legislation making the third Monday in January the day set aside to honor Dr. King, it marked the first time an African American had a national holiday named for him.

The late U.S. Congresswoman Katie Hall was instrumental in getting the legislation through Congress and in front of Reagan. On Nov. 2, 1983 Mrs. Hall stood in the Rose Garden with President Reagan when he signed this historic HR 3706. The bill had passed 338-90 in the U.S. House of Representatives, and by a 78-22 margin in the U.S. Senate.

As a means of recognizing the historic significance of Mrs. Hall’s contribution, a foundation established in her memory will honor President Reagan, America’s 40th president Saturday, April 5 at Gary’s Genesis Center at 11 a.m.

The second annual scholarship luncheon will feature Lake County Central Committee Chairman Dan Demuluc accepting the foundation’s award on behalf of former First Lady Nancy Reagan.

According to a family spokesperson, “Mrs. Reagan is especially pleased that the Board of Directors of the Katie Hall Educational Foundation is honoring her husband.”

Mrs. Reagan said in a statement the former First Lady further stated, “I applaud organizations, such as the Katie Hall Educational Foundation, for recognizing the successful efforts of President Reagan and Representative Katie Hall, in proclaiming Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s birthday a legal national holiday.”

Michael Neal, Chairman of the State Young Republicans; Treasurer Andy Qunell of the Lake County Republican Central Committee; and Indiana State Representative Rick Niemeyer are some of the officials, who will be attending the April 5 luncheon.

Mrs. Hall, who is survived by husband, John and daughterJacqueline and Juniper, was in Mound Bayou, Miss. A 1960 graduate from Mississippi Valley State University, she also earned a masters of science degree in 1968 from Indiana University, Bloomington.

Her political career began in 1974 when she was elected to the Indiana House of Representatives, where she served one term before moving to the state senate. She served there from 1976-82.

On the day President Reagan signed the legislation he shared, “Now our nation has decided to honor Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. by setting aside a day each year to remember him and the just cause he stood for. We’ve made historic strides since Rosa Parks refused to go to the back of the bus. As a democratic people, we can take pride in the knowledge that we Americans recognized a grave injustice and took action to correct it. And we should remember that in far too many countries, people like Dr. King never have the opportunity to speak out at all.”

Mrs. Hall won a special election in September 1982 to fill the seat vacated after the sudden death of Congressman Adam Benjamin, Jr. Former Gary Mayor Richard G. Hatcher appointed her to head the First District’s Democratic Committee. In the 1984 Congressional election, Mrs. Hall narrowly lost to Pete Visclosky and then-Lake County Prosecutor Jack Crawford. Visclosky eventually would win the seat.

After the loss, Mrs. Hall returned home where she became vice chair of the Gary Housing Commission. Eventually she became City Clerk. In 2012 Mrs. Hall passed away in Gary.

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