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Ohio Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Holiday Commission

The Ohio Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Holiday Commission is a statewide advocate of Dr. King's principles of nonviolence. The Commission strives to carry out Dr. King's dream of service to others throughout the entire year through various events.

The Commission was established in 1985 by executive order. Today, the DAS Administrative Support Division provides support to the Commission.

See below to learn more about the Commission, as well as how you can become involved.

Annual Awards and Commemorative Celebration

The Commission presents awards annually in categories for Ohioans' efforts to keep Dr. King's dream alive and advance his philosophy of nonviolent social change. Awards are presented as part of the Ohio Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Commemorative Celebration each January in downtown Columbus. The annual awards program recognizes the service and achievements of Ohio residents and organizations in areas consistent with the teachings and example of Dr. King. His commitment to seeking racial, social and economic justice through non-violent struggle benefited not only the victims of oppression, but society as a whole. Annual awards lift both concrete achievements and the continuing spirit of King's dreams for this nation and Ohio.

Nominations for five award categories are accepted year-round with the deadline for nominations applied to the following January's event. Any nominations received after Oct. 30 will be considered for the following year's event. Nominations can be submitted electronically by downloading and completing the nomination form. Completed forms can be emailed to the Commission at mlk@das.ohio.gov.

The 2022 Annual MLK Commemorative Celebration was livestreamed courtesy of our partners at The Ohio Channel.  

2022 Governor's Humanitarian Award

2022 Individual Award

2022 Organization Award

2022 Collaborative Award

2022 Youth: Capturing the Vision of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Statewide MLK Oratorical Contest

The Commission is committed to educating children about Dr. King's legacy of brotherhood among all people and since 2000, has hosted the Statewide MLK Oratorical Contest. The theme for the 2023 statewide oratorical contest, to be held in April 2023 (date TBD), is "Bridging the Divide: Daring to Dream Again" prompting students to reflect on how we, as a society, can envision a better tomorrow, opening our minds to bridging our differences and uniting in hope. 

The contest has a total of four divisions: primary (grades kindergarten-2); intermediate (grades 3-5); junior (grades 6-8); and senior (grades 9-12). Each year, regional contests send their first, second and third place presenters to take part in the state competition. To take part in the statewide contest, participants must first take part in regional contests. This year's regional contests included Akron (Summit County), Cincinnati, Cleveland, Columbus, Dayton, Marion-Morrow-Knox Tri-County, and Southeastern Ohio. However, those students who did not have a regional contest in their area were welcome to participate.

To participate in a regional contest for future competitions, please contact one of the coordinators below. 

 NOTE: If there is a regional competition in your area, you must compete in the local competition.  Only contestant registrations from areas without a regional competition will be accepted individually.

If you are interested in beginning a regional contest in your area, or for more information on the statewide oratorical contest, please contact the Commission at 614-466-2136 or  mlk@das.ohio.gov.

MLK Calendar and Info

The 2022 MLK Calendar is now available! The Commission produces a calendar each year that promotes Dr. King's principles of nonviolence and his vision of multicultural harmony. This year, the Commission is again making this free calendar and education tool available at distribution centers across the state. Inside are historic references and a chronology of Dr. King's life and the Civil Rights Movement. Please contact your local distribution center in advance to ensure availability and staffing so you can pick up a calendar for your home (or your organization) near you!

King Community Calendar

This Community Calendar is to highlight events across Ohio to commemorate Dr. King. If your community has an event celebrating Dr. King or a diversity event that you would like included, please send an email to the Commission at mlk@das.ohio.gov.  

    • Events are subject to change. Please contact event organizers to verify details. 

Downloadable Resources



McKinley Brown

Chair, Cincinnati

Rev. Joel L. King, Jr.

Vice Chair, Gahanna

Napoleon A. Bell II

Member, Columbus

Paul M. Booth

Member, Cincinnati

J. Averi Frost

Member, Columbus

David Jehnsen

Member, Galena

Jeffrey L. Johnson

Member, New Albany

Will Lucas

Member, Toledo

Tracey Winbush

Member, Youngstown