"Today, as we honor the life of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., I am proud New Jersey has long been at the forefront of efforts to honor and continue his work," said Christie. "I encourage New Jerseyans to pause and reflect on his contributions to our society and to do their part to make his dream a reality for all Americans. Dr. King’s message is one that is deeply rooted in the same ideals that have made our state and our nation great -- equality, freedom, faith, and opportunity for all."

New Jersey, under Gov. Tom Kean, was the first state to establish a Martin Luther King, Jr. Commemorative Commission in 1983 to ensure King's life and work were continually recognized across New Jersey.

Created by an act of Congress, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Day was signed into law by President Reagan in 1983 to honor the slain civil rights leader. The holiday was first observed at the national level in 1986.

In 1994, Congress designated the Martin Luther King Jr. federal holiday as a national day of service. It is the only federal holiday observed as a national day of service.