In 1968, Martin Luther King Jr., who many believe was the most important leader of the civil rights movement, was shot and killed in Memphis, Tennessee, at the age of 39. A week of rioting in at least 125 cities across the nation followed King's death.
In 1983, President Ronald Reagan signed into law a bill declaring Martin Luther King Jr. Day a national holiday. It was first observed in 1986. Every year, on the third Monday in January, the nation honors King's memory and spirit and the great strides he made toward equality for all Americans.
On January 31, 2006, Coretta Scott King, the widow of Martin Luther King Jr., died. She was 78 years old. After her husband was assassinated in 1968, King dedicated her life to pursuing his dream of ending racism and poverty in America. King also led the effort to establish a national holiday in her husband's name.
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