HISTORY OF THE
NATIONAL BELL RINGING
President Reagan signs on August 27, 1984 legislation providing
for the Martin Luther King, Jr. Federal Holiday Commission, to last for five
years, with an option to renew for another five years.
First meeting of the Martin Luther King, Jr. Federal
Holiday Commission, November 1984. Mrs.
King was unanimously elected chairperson and Former governor of New Jersey,
Thomas Kean was named vice-chair. January
20, 1986, the first national King Holiday was observed. The King Holiday Commissioners were sworn in
by federal district Judge Horace Ward.
The Commission was given two specific congressional
mandates: first, to encourage appropriate ceremonies and activities throughout
the U.S. relating to the observation of the federal holiday honoring Martin
Luther King, Jr.; and second to provide advice and assistance to federal, state
and local governments and to private organizations with respect to the
observance of such a holiday. One such
activity was a bell ringing ceremony requested by Mrs. King.
Mrs. King requested that a bell ringing ceremony be held in
Philadelphia at Independence Hall to launch the celebration of the
holiday. Ronald Reagan’s HUD Secretary,
Samuel Pierce was the first bell ringer.
For the first three years of celebrating the holiday the Commission
served as sponsors of the bell ringing ceremony. Thereafter, the Philadelphia
Martin Luther King, Jr. Association for Nonviolence, Inc. became the sponsor of
the ceremony, and has carried on the tradition ever since. The holiday is now observed by the ringing of
the Liberty Bell as a Symbol of freedom and justice. The Association currently assumes all
organizing and financial responsibility for the bell ringing ceremony, but will
seek and support legislative initiatives for federal funding of this national
“LET FREEDOM RING”