- The Washington Times - Wednesday, April 5, 2000

Lee-Jackson-King Day, the uniquely Virginian holiday that recognizes two Confederate native sons and a civil rights leader, is now officially two holidays after Gov. James S. Gilmore III yesterday signed the law separating them.
The Republican governor, who has made reaching out to Virginia's minority communities a priority of his administration, called for the law in his State of the Commonwealth address in January, and it sailed through the General Assembly without a dissenting vote.
The measure to create a holiday for Martin Luther King and one for Confederate Gens. Robert E. Lee and Thomas J. "Stonewall" Jackson was signed into law on the 32nd anniversary of King's assassination.
But even as the announcement of the governor's signature was being sent out, the executive director of the state conference of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People held a news conference and released a statement denouncing the governor's yearly proclamation of April as Confederate History Month, which could come as soon as today.
"We just wanted to state unequivocally our opposition to his proclamation issuance," said King Salim Khalfani, executive director of the state NAACP.
In the release, the NAACP calls Confederate soldiers "traitors and therefore criminals," and includes a copy of the resolution by which Virginia repealed ratification of the U.S. Constitution, when the state referred to "oppression of the Southern slave-holding states."
Despite a line in Mr. Gilmore's yearly proclamation calling slavery abhorrent, some black leaders say its issuance calls on them to honor those who enslaved their ancestors.
Still, acknowledging Confederate history vitally important to Virginia's economy and, many argue, sense of identity while also condemning slavery is typical of the governor's philosophy.
"One of our greatest bonds as Virginians is our deep and diverse history," the governor said yesterday in a statement announcing the new King holiday. "My goal in signing this legislation is to honor our history and strengthen our bonds so that we can move forward as a united commonwealth."
Lee-Jackson Day was celebrated on the third Monday in January years before King was even born. In 1984, state lawmakers added King, following the lead of the federal government, which designated the third Monday in January for King. King's birthday is Jan. 15, Lee's birthday is Jan. 19, and Jackson's is Jan. 21.
The new law keeps the celebration of King Day on the federal holiday and moves Lee-Jackson Day to the preceding Friday, giving about 140,000 state employees a paid, four-day weekend.
It remains to be seen how many school districts and companies will observe a holiday. Those that do opt for a three-day weekend are likely to give King Day off because it corresponds with the federal holiday.
But that won't bother Thomas Taylor, a retired Marine colonel and executive director of Stratford Hall, the Lee family home in the Northern Neck.
"I don't think Robert E. Lee gets left out by a long shot. Robert E. Lee has a unique place in American history, and as I say history I mean American history, not just Southern history," Col. Taylor said.
The real problem isn't whether students get their day off, it is that children are never taught why there should be a day commemorating Lee and Jackson in the first place, said Bragg Bowling, Richmond Brigade commander for the Sons of Confederate Veterans.
The same goes for why there needs to be Confederate History Month which recognizes "Virginia citizens called into the service of their state, and who die in the service of the state," he said.
The sons preferred having the holidays together for the symbolism of King and Lee, who Mr. Bowling said was a great reconciler in his own right, but the group didn't oppose the effort to split them. He said the sons would like to have been consulted in the matter, and wish Lee-Jackson Day wasn't the holiday being moved.
"We're disappointed the governor made all of his overtures to the NAACP and didn't bother talking to us," Mr. Bowling said.

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