What do Robert E. Lee, Stonewall Jackson, and Martin Luther King, Jr have in common?

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Lee-Jackson-King Day

What do Robert E. Lee, Stonewall Jackson, and Martin Luther King, Jr have in common?

For a short time, from 1984 to 2000, they shared the same holiday.  Clearly, celebrating the lives of two Confederate generals with a civil rights icon is inappropriate to put it mildly.  But how did this happen?

In 1889, Virginia created Lee Day to celebrate Robert E. Lee’s birthday (January 19, 1807).  Thomas J. “Stonewall” Jackson’s name was added to the holiday in 1904 to celebrate his birthday (January 21, 1824) changing the name to Lee-Jackson Day.

In 1983, the United States Congress declared January 15 to be a national holiday in honor of civil rights leader Martin Luther King, Jr. Since 1978, Virginia had celebrated King’s birthday in conjunction with New Year’s Day. To align with the federal holiday, the Virginia legislature simply combined King’s celebration with the existing Lee–Jackson holiday.

In 2000, Virginia Governor Jim Gilmore proposed splitting Lee–Jackson–King Day into two separate holidays.  The measure was approved and the two holidays are now celebrated separately as Lee–Jackson Day and Martin Luther King, Jr. Day.

Lee–Jackson Day is currently observed on the Friday before Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, which is the third Monday in January. State offices are closed for both holidays.

So, as a reminder, tomorrow state offices and libraries will be closed for Lee-Jackson Day.

Monday, state offices, libraries, and schools will be closed for Martin Luther King, Jr. Day.

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