SOUTH BEND, Ind. (AP) — Former Indiana congresswoman Katie
Hall, one of the sponsors of the 1983 legislation that established a
national holiday for Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., has died. She was 73.
Hall's husband, John Henry Hall, said she died Monday at
Methodist Hospitals' Northlake campus in Gary from an undisclosed illness.
John Henry Hall said his wife's work on the bill to make
Martin Luther King Day a national holiday was the accomplishment of which
she was most proud.
"She was there with President Reagan as well as Coretta
Scott King and others when the president signed it. It was one of the
highlights of her career, tremendously so," he said.
Katie Hall, who was Indiana's first black member in the
U.S. House of Representatives, got her start in politics working for the
election of Richard Hatcher as mayor of Gary in 1967, when he became one
of the first black mayors of big U.S. city.
"That energized her and got her into politics," James Lane,
a history professor at Indiana University Northwest in Gary.
She served in the Indiana House of Representatives from
1974-76 and in the Indiana Senate from 1976-82. When U.S. Rep. Adam
Benjamin of northwestern Indiana's 1st District died suddenly in 1982, two
months before the election, Hatcher was influential in persuading
Democratic Party officials to nominate Hall to replace him, Lane said. She
won election to a full two-year term that November.
Hall was defeated in the 1984 Democratic primary by Peter
Visclosky, who has held the seat since then after defeating another
challenge from Hall two years later. She then served as Gary's city clerk
from 1988 until 2003, when she pleaded guilty to mail fraud as part of a
plea deal with federal prosecutors on 20 felony public corruption charges.
Hall and others had been accused of making workers in the city clerk's
office raise money for Hall's re-election campaigns in order to keep their
Hall was sentenced to house arrest and probation but her
daughter, Junifer Hall, served a 16-month prison term.
Gary Mayor Karen Freeman-Wilson expressed her condolences
to Hall's family in a statement released Tuesday.
"She was a great friend of our family, a phenomenal
educator, author of the King holiday bill and a political trailblazer we
will never forget," Freeman-Wilson said.
Hall's husband said his wife should be remembered as a
humanitarian who rose from humble beginnings growing up on her
grandfather's cotton farm in Mound Bayou, Miss.
"She left a great legacy of love and concern for city,
state and country as well as humanity, and her great work rising from the
cotton fields of Mississippi to serve in the Congress of the United States
of America," he said.