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Katie Hall, at 73; cosponsor of bill establishing MLK Day

SOUTH BEND, Ind. — Former US representative Katie Hall of Indiana, one of the sponsors of the 1983 legislation that established a national holiday for the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., has died. She was 73.

Ms. Hall’s husband, John Henry Hall, said she died of an undisclosed illness Monday at Methodist Hospitals’ Northlake campus in Gary.

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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 proudest.

“She was there with President Reagan as well as Coretta Scott King and others when the president signed it,’’ he said. “It was one of the highlights of her career, tremendously so.’’

Katie Hall, who was Indiana’s first black member in the US 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 US 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 to 1976 and in the Indiana Senate from 1976 to 1982.

When US Representative Adam Benjamin of northwestern Indiana’s First District died unexpectedly in 1982, two months before the election, Hatcher was influential in persuading Democratic Party officials to nominate Ms. Hall to replace him, Lane said. She won election to a full two-year term that November.

Ms. Hall was defeated in the 1984 Democratic primary by Peter Visclosky, who has held the seat since then after defeating another challenge from Ms. Hall two years later.

She 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 felony public corruption charges. Ms. Hall and others had been accused of making workers in the city clerk’s office raise money for her reelection campaigns in order to keep their jobs. She was sentenced to house arrest and probation, but her daughter, Junifer Hall, served a 16-month prison term.

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