BALTIMORE (AP) — Former Delegate Kenneth L. Webster, who authored legislation to make Maryland the second state to recognize the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.’s birthday as a holiday in 1974, has died. He was 76.

Webster died Saturday morning of kidney failure at a Baltimore hospital, said his wife, Phoebe Webster. The Baltimore Democrat and Air Force veteran of the Korean War was a state delegate from 1970 to 1978.

“He liked working with all different causes for the betterment of people,” Phoebe Webster said Sunday evening.

She said her husband was determined to pass a law recognizing the state holiday in King’s memory because he felt the late civil rights icon should be recognized for his contributions to the country.

“He was uncompromising in his belief for social justice and racial equality,” Carl O. Snowden, the director for civil rights in the Maryland Attorney General’s Office, said Sunday.

After he left public office, Kenneth Webster was a longtime worker in Baltimore city government and a social worker in Annapolis. Snowden said he also devoted time to his hobby — ballroom dancing.

“Most people have an image of him being strident and abrasive and having a `take no prisoner’ kind of attitude,” Snowden said. “He was a great dancer. People loved to see him dance. He was remarkably light on his feet.”

Kenneth Webster also continued to champion racial equality and the poor, organizing demonstrations at the state capital. He worked to preserve MLK’s memory in the state, with memorials for King and his wife, Coretta Scott King, Snowden said.

“Even when he was in failing health, he gave it all — he helped raise money, contacted people. He really thought it was important that Coretta Scott King have a memorial in her honor,” Snowden said.

Funeral arrangements have not yet been completed.

(Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)


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