Transcript for This day in history: Oct. 19, 1983
Good evening here in Washington today the senate decided that Martin Luther King's birthday will be a national holiday. It'll be the third Monday in January beginning in 1986 it was doctor king's dream of a colorblind America. Which spurred this nation on to the great civil rights legislation of the 1960s. Today's honor can best be measured by one fact George Washington is the only other American to have a truly national holiday bearing his name. Brit Hume was in the senate chamber when today's votes were cast. The bill was a cause that brought together faces from the old civil rights coalition. Ministers entertainers activists and politicians of both races both parties and in victory today that familiar refrain was heard a news. We have overcome today. Earlier doctor king's widow one son looked on from the front row of the senate gallery as the last efforts to block the bill were voted down. To the dismay of north Carolina Republican Helms who had crusade against it. In the final hour with the outcome assured the bill's supporters led by Kennedy of Massachusetts had their moment. Martin Luther King said Kennedy gave his life to complete the unfinished business of the American revolution and the civil war. He was the irresistible force of justice that made the immovable object of discrimination move. The vote was overwhelming 78 to 22. Four senators voting Democrats Byrd of West Virginia long of Louisiana Stennis of Mississippi. And Republican Thurmond of South Carolina had been diehard opponents of the civil rights legislation Doctor King had fought for. Today only Stennis oppose the national holiday in king's memory Helms was beaten but on ballot. You'd rather win but there's something more important than winning. Can in my judgment that's being worried. But senator Helms friend and ally Ronald Reagan apparently doesn't think he is right reversing his earlier opposition the president plans to sign the bill. Brit Hume ABC news on Capitol Hill. Joining us now here in Washington mrs. Coretta Scott King. Mrs. king a number of people who voted in favor of this national labor wants your husband's most outspoken critics does this suggest to you that blacks. And the nation have come a long way. Yes I think it certainly does I think this represents that over a period of time. Martin Luther King Jr. is meaning and the enormous contribution he made toward they're making this animation. More democratic nation is being recognized. Aside from that day off in today's political symbolism. Why else is this a milestone. I think it's sad milestone because. We have an opportunity now on the birthday. As it is amassed a holiday to spend the time teaching our young people and understanding both black and white. Of all look cold. All religious backgrounds and all ethnic. Backgrounds as well I think that's when we understand fully of the meaning of Martin's life an example because he. It's always. Good for what he thought was in the tradition. The American. A dream and he was says it's great patriarch I think that. That this gives us an opportunity now to officially. And with all young children and an all people turning toward Marten and his crate. Message of love and nonviolence. As it applies to our problems and we can solve these problems through nonviolent means I think fifth. That this says that the nation is. Now. Ready to move closer to the fulfillment off badgering. Mrs. king thank you very much.
This transcript has been automatically generated and may not be 100% accurate.