PHOENIX (3TV/CBS 5) -- On Martin Luther King Day, the man who had a dream about peace and unity wasn't the only one being celebrated in Arizona. The man who was one of the driving forces behind making MLK Day a state holiday was also honored on Monday in Phoenix.
At "The Play it Forward - Full Circle" event, hosted by the HeroZona Foundation and the American Legion Travis L. Williams Post 65's 4th "Play if Forward for the Arts" program, there was a press conference honoring Senior Pastor Dr. Warren H. Stewart, Sr. of First Institutional Baptist Church. As the first General Chairperson for the Arizonans for a Martin Luther King Jr. State Holiday, Dr. Stewart contributed heavily to the legislature passing the MLK holiday in Arizona in 1989.
In the early 1990s, that passage of the MLK holiday was thrown in Arizona. But by 1992, due to a historical vote from the people in the general election, the holiday was approved. Victory Together, Inc., a broad-based coalition organized and led by Dr. Stewart, helped with making the holiday possible in the state. In the U.S., Arizona is the only state to institute the MLK holiday by a vote of the people.
The first MLK holiday in Arizona was celebrated with a big gathering at the American West Arena, which is now the Talking Stick Arena in downtown Phoenix. Celebrities and public figures like Stevie Wonder and Rosa Parks were in attendance. The MLK Day celebration returned to the arena on Monday, 27 years later. Dr. Stewart was honored at halftime during the Phoenix Suns vs. Antonio Spurs game.
In addition to celebrating MLK Day and honoring Dr. Stewart, the press conference announced the statewide kickoff of Black History Month in February.