What year was Martin Luther King Day first observed as a federal holiday? July 30, 2020January 7, 2012 by Pamela Landy Martin Luther King Day was first observed as a federal legal public holiday on January 20, 1986. Related Answers Where did Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., get his doctorate? Where was the assassin of civil rights leader Martin Luther King, James Earl Ray arrested? What was James Earl Ray’s sentence for killing Martin Luther King, Jr.? When and where did Martin Luther King, Jr., make his “I Have a Dream” speech? How many federal holidays are there in the U.S.? How many people serve on the Federal Reserve Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System?