National Bell Ringing Ceremony


President Reagan signs on August 27, 1984 legislation providing for the Martin Luther King, Jr. Federal Holiday Commission, to last for five years, with an option to renew for another five years. First meeting of the Martin Luther King, Jr. Federal Holiday Commission, November 1984.  Mrs. King was unanimously elected chairperson and Former governor of New Jersey, Thomas Kean was named vice-chair.  January 20, 1986, the first national King Holiday was observed.  The King Holiday Commissioners were sworn in by federal district Judge Horace Ward. The Commission was given two specific congressional mandates: first, to encourage appropriate ceremonies and activities throughout the U.S. relating to the observation of the federal holiday honoring Martin Luther King, Jr.; and second to provide advice and assistance to federal, state and local governments and to private organizations with respect to the observance of such a holiday.  One such activity was a bell ringing ceremony requested by Mrs. King. Mrs. King requested that a bell ringing ceremony be held in Philadelphia at Independence Hall to launch the celebration of the holiday.  Ronald Reagan’s HUD Secretary, Samuel Pierce was the first bell ringer.  For the first three years of celebrating the holiday the Commission served as sponsors of the bell ringing ceremony. Thereafter, the Philadelphia Martin Luther King, Jr. Association for Nonviolence, Inc. became the sponsor of the ceremony, and has carried on the tradition ever since.  The holiday is now observed by the ringing of the Liberty Bell as a Symbol of freedom and justice.  The Association currently assumes all organizing and financial responsibility for the bell ringing ceremony, but will seek and support legislative initiatives for federal funding of this national observance.  

2019 National Bell Ringer

Cathy Hughes, Founder and Chairperson, Urban One (formerly Radio One) and TV One Cable Television Network

Former National Bell Ringers


Crystal Grice and other nieces of  C. DeLores Tucker

Most Reverend Charles J. Chaput, O.F.M. Cap.
Archbishop of Philadelphia
Ilyasah ShabazzMalaak Shabazz

Daughters of Malcolm X and Betty Shabazz
Michael Rashid
President & CEOAmeriHealth Mercy Family of Companies
Hon. Russyl Ali
Asst. Secretary for Civil Rights U.S. Department of Education
James Bain
Exonerated after 35 years of Wrongful Incarceration
Hon. Lynn Toler
Judge, Syndicated Fox Television Show “Divorce Court”
Xernona Clayton
President & Founder Trumpet Awards Foundation
Hon. Edward G Rendell
Governor, Commonwealth of Pennsylvania  
Cicely Tyson   
Renowned Actress  
Ossie Davis
Former Renowned Actor  
Hon. Carol Moseley Braun
Former U.S. Ambassador Former U.S. Senator, Illinois
Hon. Martin Luther King, III
President, Southern Christian Leadership  
Hon. Walter Fauntroy   
Former U.S. Congressman    
Pres. Nat’l Black Leadership Roundtable    
Tipper Gore   
Advocate for Families, Women and Children
Wife of Former Vice President Al 

Hon. Bruce Babbitt
Former U.S. Secretary of Interior
Chief Justice Robert N.C. Nix, Jr.
Former Supreme Court Judge Commonwealth of Pennsylvania  Hon. Colin L. Powell
Former Secretary of State
Hon. Al Gore        
Former Vice President, U.S.A.
Dr. Joycelyn Elders
Former U.S. Surgeon General
Myrlie Evers-Williams
Civil Rights Activist and
Widow of slain civil rights leader, Medgar Evers      
Dr. Dorothy I. Height   
President National Council of NegroWomen, Inc.
Judge A. Leon Higginbotham, Jr.
Former U.S. Third Circuit Court of Appeals
Rev. Joseph Lowery
Former President, Southern Christian Leadership Conference
Hon. James Farmer
Former President, Congress of Racial Equality
Rev. Benjamin A. Hooks
Former Executive Director of the NAACP
Rosa Parks
Mother of the Civil Rights Movement  
Hon. Samuel Pierce
Former U.S. Secretary of Housing & Urban Development