Utah Martin Luther King Jr. Day Celebrations Sparse

Utah Martin Luther King Jr. Day Celebrations Sparse

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SALT LAKE CITY (AP) -- Utahns wishing to publicly commemorate Martin Luther King Jr. Day will be hard pressed to find celebrations throughout the state.

Utah, where whites make up 89 percent of the population, was the last state in the country to officially recognize the holiday, first designating it "Human Rights Day," before changing it to honor King in 2000.

During a visit to Utah Valley State College in Orem last week, King's daughter Yolanda said her father would be disappointed if Americans did not use the holiday dedicated to his memory to do something constructive to embrace diversity.

The holiday came on the same day as the opening of the Utah Legislature.

Addressing the Senate, Theresa Martinez, a University of Utah sociology professor, said that Martin Luther King Jr. "asked America to remember its greatest strengths. ... We celebrate today a great American who gave his life that we might all enjoy a better life."

But celebrations throughout the state appeared to be few.

In Salt Lake City, the local chapter of the NAACP held its annual Martin Luther King Jr. Day luncheon. Third District Juvenile Court Judge Andrew Valdez was to be given the King Award, while Eva Sexton, 82, who has raised 112 foster children of various ethnic backgrounds, was to receive the Rosa Parks award.

In Provo, a candlelight walk and memorial program was scheduled at Brigham Young University starting from the Carillon Bell Tower.

Monday's editions of The Salt Lake City Tribune, The (St. George) Spectrum and Deseret Morning News each included editorials and columns embracing King's vision.

Martin Luther King Jr.'s birthday was January 15. He would have been 75.

(Copyright 2004 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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