PHOENIX (3TV/CBS 5) -- For 44 years Dr. Warren Stewart has been preaching the gospel at First Institutional Baptist Church in Phoenix.

While saving souls and advocating for numerous community endeavors, Stewart also played a huge role in helping the Martin Luther King Junior Day become a reality in Arizona.

"I was offended that the state kept disrespecting the life and legacy and ministry of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. by rejecting having a paid state holiday like the nation had," Dr. Stewart said.

"Most Arizonans viewed the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday as a Black holiday and says Arizona at that time only had three to three and a half, four %, African American, we don't need a holiday for a Black man, because it ain't that many of ya'll."

But Dr. Stewart and a coalition of advocates persevered and finally were able to change hearts and minds.

In May 1986, then Arizona Governor Bruce Babbitt made history.

"Governor Babbitt declared and signed the executive order for Arizona's first modern King holiday from the pulpit but he said something very prophetic. He said you all are going to have to fight for this. That was an understatement." 

Arizona voters went back to the polls and in 1993 officially approved the MLK holiday.

Stewart, who wrote a book about the experience, says Dr. King's dream for equality for all still lives today.

Dr. Warren Stewart

Dr. Warren Stewart, Senior Pastor at First Institutional Baptist Church of Phoenix.


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