The Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Birthday Breakfast is the largest United States event of its kind marking the birthdate of the Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr., observed on the third Monday of January each year, held in Columbus the capital and the largest city of the U.S. state of Ohio. It is one of four United States federal holidays to commemorate an individual person.
At the White House Rose Garden on November 2, 1983, President Ronald Reagan signed a bill creating a federal holiday to honor the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. It was observed for the first time on January 20, 1986 and commemorated by the first Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Birthday Breakfast.
In 1985 a group of ladies from the historical Shiloh Baptist Church, established 1869, Mrs. LaRue
V. Keeler, Mrs. Charlene Taylor and Mrs. Lorraine Clemons, all now deceased, wanted to honor Dr. King with something different than a simple meal at church. They thought it should be a citywide observance showing recognition of the proclamation by the U. S. Government and President Ronald Regan for a day to recognize that the legacy of the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. who touched the conscience of America with his dream of love, peace and justice and a better world for everyone should be perpetuated, honored and not forgotten. The Reverend C. Dexter Wise, III, Pastor of the Shiloh Baptist Church and Mr. Amos H. Lynch, Sr., Editor, Columbus Call and Post Newspaper were contacted about the ideal. Rev. Wise applauded the idea and offered to contact one of two hotels to see if last minute arrangements could be made to have the function at a hotel. Arrangements were made to have the first Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Birthday Breakfast on January 20, 1986 at the Sheraton Hotel Downtown Columbus. Mr. Lynch and Rev. Wise publicized the Breakfast event. Mrs. LaRue V. Keeler became the primary coordinator of the event. About 1,000 people came making the Breakfast event a great success. The Breakfast rotated through different venues as it grew. The Breakfast has attracted nearly 6,000 people and is billed as the largest breakfast in Dr. King's honor in the nation.
As a result of the success of the 1986 Breakfast, the 1987 Breakfast was arranged and in the process of arranging the 1988 Breakfast it was decided to incorporate with the State of Ohio forming the Martin Luther King Breakfast Committee, Inc., a nonprofit 501(c)(3) Internal Revenue Code charity organization.
Each year speakers are invited; some have been close personal friends or acquaintances of Dr. King, some are ministers who discuss religious topics, others are educators who discuss educational goals, others are lawyers who discuss civil rights goals. The Breakfast presents to the community oratory tributes from student speakers of the Columbus Public Schools now Columbus City Schools and from the Martin Luther King, Jr. International Chapel Morehouse College student “King Scholars” prestigious scholastic designee. Benefits of the Breakfast include: the flagship event for Columbus King Holiday observances; the opportunity for all peoples to come together and symbolically “sit at the table of brotherhood”; the opportunity for young people to express their thoughts on “Living the Dream” of Dr. King; the opportunity for the students and their parents to become knowledgeable of the struggles for Civil Rights in this country; serves to promote social welfare by honoring an individual whose memory encourages the lessening of neighborhood tensions and the continued elimination of prejudice and discrimination; and brings to Columbus outstanding keynote speakers.
Funds raised in excess of expenses are used to: (1) advance education by providing scholarships
to students of theology matriculating at the Martin Luther King, Jr. International Chapel Morehouse College, Atlanta, GA, the Alma Mater of Dr. King, and (2) to provide additional funds to assist in the maintenance of public buildings and works of The King Arts Complex (formerly the Martin Luther King Center for Cultural and Performing Arts) in our city of Columbus, Ohio.