Side A: James W. Rankin served four consecutive terms (1971-1978) in the Ohio House of Representatives. Born and raised in Cincinnati, he graduated from Withrow High School and The Ohio State University’s School of Social Work. While working in Cincinnati’s Seven Hills neighborhood, he ran for office to “involve the disadvantaged in the governmental processes that affected their lives.” He won his first bid and served the next seven years as a state representative for the 69th House district, later the reapportioned 25th district. Representative Rankin fought passionately for civil and human rights in education and public policy. He served on the Reference, Human Resources, and Finance committees. When Rankin died of pneumonia, aged 52, the Cincinnati Enquirer proclaimed him a “Friend of the Poor.”
Side B: The campaign to honor civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr. with a holiday began shortly after his death in 1968. James W. Rankin played a key role in the legislation that created Ohio’s Martin Luther King Jr. holiday. “There are 10,000 monuments to war. Why shouldn’t there be a monument to peace?” Rankin declared to his colleagues. “We should leave here some evidence that causes cannot be murdered and dreams not assassinated.” Governor James A. Rhodes signed into law May 2, 1975, the bill that made the third Monday in January Ohio’s 10th legal holiday. Although Ohio celebrated its first “MLK Day” on January 19, 1976, a federal holiday would not be the law until 1983 or observed by all 50 states until 2000.