Alabama 1 of just 2 states still combining King, Lee holidays

Only Alabama and Mississippi continue to commemorate King and Lee on the same day.
Only Alabama and Mississippi continue to commemorate King and Lee on the same day.(WTVY News 4)
Published: Jan. 17, 2022 at 11:16 AM CST
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MONTGOMERY, Ala. (WSFA) - Monday marks two holidays in Alabama, the official recognition of birthdays for Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and Confederate General Robert E. Lee.

King’s actual birthday is Jan. 15 while Lee’s is on the 19th. The federal holiday that honors King does not necessarily fall on his birthday, however. It’s marked on the third Monday in January, which can fall anytime between the 15th and 21st. It passed Congress and was signed into law by President Ronald Reagan in 1983.

Lee’s birthday has been celebrated as a state holiday by a number of Southern states since the 1880s, but official commemorations are on the decline. For example, in 2020, Virginia ended its holiday for Lee and fellow native son and Confederate General Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson.

Currently, only Alabama and Mississippi continue to commemorate King and Lee on the same day.

There have been a number of attempts in Alabama to end the combined holiday through the Alabama Legislature, but each has failed. That has not stopped critics from making their annual criticism known about combining state and federal holidays to simultaneously honor a slaveholder and a civil rights activist.

Alabama Democratic Party Chairman and state Rep. Chris England reacted to a social media post Monday from the Alabama Republican Party that praised King. England noted that he agreed with the tweet and asked for support for legislation that “will give him the honor he deserves-his own day, rather than one shared with Robert E. Lee.”

The Alabama GOP has made no mention of Lee on its social media accounts as of Monday morning. There are also no known or publicized plans in the Montgomery area to mark the state holiday named for him.

In addition to Lee, Alabama continues to mark two other official state holidays related to the Confederacy including Confederate Memorial Day in April and Jefferson Davis’s Birthday in June.

England previously tweeted that he was also sponsoring a bill to remove the state holiday recognizing Davis and replace it with State Employee Appreciation Day.

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