DENVER (CBS4)– State lawmakers honored the woman credited with starting Martin Luther King Day in Colorado. On Friday, Democrats and Republicans at the state Capitol gave former State Rep. Wilma Webb a standing ovation in the House chamber.
As she stood before the lawmakers, Rep. Lesley Herod said, “Wilma, we owe this day to you.”
Webb says today’s Legislature, which is the most diverse in state history, is much different than the one she served in.
“The unity that was expressed today in this Legislature was so different than the atmosphere in which I served,” said Webb.
Instead of unity, Webb says she encountered hostility in the 1980s as she introduced bill after bill to establish the MLK Jr. holiday.
“Four different times. Four different efforts. Four different bills,” said Webb.
She recalled the cold reception of colleagues, “None of them really said anything opposing to it. They just voted ‘No.’”
Webb also recalled the warmth of supporters, “They brought three bus loads full of people from Colorado Springs. I myself personally lobbied every member of the Senate, every member of the House. In the last, fourth year, I was able to get it adopted.”
Webb admits there were times she considered giving up, “Because it was so difficult.”
But she persevered, “Because this Legislature, this country needs to know about Dr. Martin Luther King and what a great person he was.”
Lawmakers gave Webb a certificate recognizing her service and courage, “For this to be presented today in this legislature and to hear all the comments… it means all of what that struggle was.”
Webb was the first African American appointed to the powerful Joint Budget Committee at the state Capitol. She lost her seat on that committee as a result of her fight for the MLK Jr. holiday.