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By the numbers: Martin Luther King Jr. Day

By Toby Lyles, CNN
January 21, 2013 -- Updated 2101 GMT (0501 HKT)
The third Monday in January is Martin Luther King Jr. Day, a federal holiday of service honoring the civil rights leader.
The third Monday in January is Martin Luther King Jr. Day, a federal holiday of service honoring the civil rights leader.
  • The third Monday in January is Martin Luther King Jr. Day
  • The federal holiday is also the only federal holiday of service
  • "Everybody can be great because everybody can serve," Dr. King said

(CNN) -- Martin Luther King Jr. Day is celebrated on the third Monday in January, although Dr. King was actually born on the 15th of January 1929, 84 years ago.

Below are some facts and numbers related to the federal holiday, in which Americans are encouraged to participate in a day of service.

27 -- The number of years since the very first national celebration of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Day on January 20, 1986.

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1 -- The Montgomery Bus Boycott against segregated seating lasted approximately one year, starting December 1, 1955. This is what Dr. Martin King said in his book, "Stride Toward Freedom: The Montgomery Story": We have no alternative but to protest. For many years we have shown an amazing patience. We have sometimes given our white brothers the feeling that we liked the way we were being treated. But we come here tonight to be saved from that patience that makes us patient with anything less than freedom and justice.

1 -- In a speech delivered one day before his assassination Dr. King said, "Let us keep the issues where they are."

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"That's all this whole thing is about. We aren't engaged in any negative protest and in any negative arguments with anybody. We are saying that we are determined to be men. We are determined to be people," he said.

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44 -- "Everybody can be great because everybody can serve," Dr. King said in his sermon "The Drum Major Instinct," forty-four years ago on February 4, 1968. Mrs. King read the same statement when, in 1994, she asked congress to make the holiday an official national day of humanitarian service.

4 -- The number of days between the assassination of Dr. King on April 4, 1968, and the first legislative bill to establish a federal holiday. Rep. John Conyers (D- Michigan) sponsored the bill on April 8, 1968, 44 years ago.

33 -- The number of years since Stevie Wonder's release of "Happy Birthday," a song asking, in 1980, for a day "in full remembrance."

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6 million -- The number of signatures on the King Center petitions Mrs. Coretta Scott King and Stevie Wonder presented in 1982 to Tip O'Neil, Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives, in support of a federal holiday.

29 -- The number of years since President Reagan signed the November 3, 1983, legislation creating the national holiday, which started in 1986. It was almost 11 years later that the holiday became a day of service, August 23, 1994, when President Clinton signed the Martin Luther King Jr. Federal Holiday and Service Act.

3 -- Utah, New Hampshire, and South Carolina were the last to join the rest of the states in making Martin Luther King Jr. Day, the day as we know it throughout the nation.

30 -- feet. The height of the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Stone of Hope on the National Mall. On one side, it reads, "Out of the mountain of despair, a stone of hope," from Dr. King's speech, "I Have a Dream," presented at the Lincoln Memorial, August 28, 1963.

1 -- This is the number of federal holidays of service - A Day On, Not a Day Off.

Read more: Why conservatives call MLK their hero

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