"Free at last, free at last. Thank God Almighty, we are free at last" Each year on the third Monday of January, schools, federal offices, post office and banks across America close as we celebrate the newest American national holiday, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Day. 15 years after Dr. King's death, President Ronald Reagan signed a bill into law making the third Monday of January a national holiday celebrating the birth and life of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. But it was a tough time getting the bill passed. First a bill had to be introduced by a member of the House of Representatives. The Speaker of the House assigned the bill to a committee, where the bill was discussed in detail. Meetings were held, where supporters and opposers could discuss their positions. The committee then agreed that bill should be sent to a vote. The Rules Committee scheduled a debate on the issue. The House of Representatives then voted on the bill. It passed the House with a vote of 338 to 90. Then it was sent to the Senate. Again the issue of the King Holiday had to pass through committees and public hearings before a final vote was taken. There were many who opposed the idea of holiday for Dr. King. America had only honored two individuals with national holidays - George Washington and Christopher Columbus. Many felt that there were other Americans that deserved a national holiday, such as Abraham Lincoln and John F. Kennedy. One barrier to the confirmation was the Senator from Georgia who had denounced Dr. King as a communist. Others feared the King Holiday was meant as a way to make up to African-Americans for slavery. Other feared the cost of the holiday, with the extra overtime paid to federal workers who had to work on the holiday as well as millions to those federal employees who were paid for the day. Senator Bob Dole pointed out to those critics, "I suggest they hurry back to their pocket calculators and estimate the cost of 300 years of slavery, followed by a century or more of economic, political and social exclusion and discrimination." It took many years for Congress to decide to celebrate the holiday. In the years leading up to the official decree many African-Americans celebrated the birthday themselves with a few states declaring King's birthday a state holiday. The bill was finally passed by both the House of Representatives and the Senate and was signed into law on Nov. 2, 1983. The first national celebration of the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. holiday took place Jan. 20, 1986. OLDE SOUTHERN CORNBREAD INGREDIENTS 1 cups yellow cornmeal cup flour 1 tsp. salt 1 tsp. baking powder 1 cups buttermilk tsp. baking soda 2 eggs 2 tbsp. butter Pinch sugar METHOD In a large bowl, combine the cornmeal, flour, salt and baking powder. Mix well. Combine the buttermilk and baking soda in a small bowl and beat until foamy. Add the buttermilk mixture to the cornmeal mixture. Add the eggs and beat well. Stir in the melted butter and pour into a greased, hot, oven-proof skillet. Cast-iron works well. If you don't have one, use a greased baking dish. Bake at 450 degrees for 20 minutes or until lightly browned on top. CREOLE CHICKEN WITH RICE INGREDIENTS cup Margarine or canola oil 1-2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken breasts cut into bite-sized pieces 1 tbsp. chopped fresh parsley 2-4 cups cooked rice Sauce: 2 tbsp. canola oil 1 large onion, diced 2 green peppers, seeded and diced 3 stalks celery, diced 3 cups diced tomatoes, (canned may be used, drain well) 2 cups tomato puree 1 tsp. cayenne pepper 5 cloves garlic, minced 1 tbsp. chopped parsley 1 cup chicken stock Tabasco sauce to taste Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste METHOD Heat a large skillet and add the canola oil. SautZ the onions until translucent. Add the peppers and tomatoes and cook for about 2 minutes. Add the tomato puree. SautZ for 5 minutes and add the cayenne pepper, garlic, parsley, chicken stock, salt, and pepper and Tabasco sauce. Reduce the heat and simmer for about 7-10 minutes. Meanwhile, while the sauce is simmering, heat another skillet and add the oil or margarine. SautZ the chicken breasts and the chopped parsley until the chicken is cooked through. Add the chicken to the sauce, including the juices from the pan. AND FINALLY... Free at Last! An elderly man and his wife decided to separate. Before being allowed to do so legally, the Family Court insisted they undergo some counseling from the marriage therapist to see if their union could be saved. The counselor did her best, but to no avail. The old folks were absolutely determined to go through with the separation leading to divorce. Finally, in some desperation, the counselor said: "But you're 95 and your wife is 93. You've been married for 72 years! Why do you want to separate now?" To which the wife replied: "We haven't been able to stand each other for the last 46 years. But we thought we should wait until all the children died before we split up."