The idea of Martin Luther King Day as a holiday was promoted soon after his assassination in 1968. After King's death, United States Democrat Representative, John Conyers and, United State Republican Senator, Edward Brooke introduced a bill in Congress to make King's birthday a national holiday.
The bill first came to a vote in the United States House of Representatives in 1979 and fell five votes short of the number needed. There were two main arguments mentioned by opponents, the first being that a paid holiday for federal employees would be too expensive and, secondly, that a holiday to honour the birth (of a private citizen who had never held public office) would be contrary to the longstanding tradition.
The effort received more publicity when, after a decade, shortly after the failure of a bill that was introduced by Representative John Conyers. In September of 1979, Stevie Wonder released a song called "Happy Birthday". That was meant to make a case for the holiday, calling out anyone who didn't support the idea. Additionally, Six million signatures were collected for a petition to Congress to pass the law. In 1981, President Ronald Reagan came into office and originally opposed the holiday.
Additionally, Senators, of North Carolina Republicans, Jesse Helms and John Porter East opposed the holiday and questioned whether King was important enough to receive such an honor and criticized King's opposition to the Vietnam War.
On November 2, 1983, Reagan signed a bill, proposed by Representative Katie Hall of Indiana, to create a federal holiday honoring King. The bill passed the House of Representatives and was observed for the first time on January 20, 1986. Initially, some states resisted observing the holiday, only in the year 2000 was it officially observed in all 50 states for the first time.