- The Washington Times - Saturday, January 14, 2017

The mayor of Biloxi, Mississippi urged local lawmakers this week to pass an ordinance officially recognizing the third Monday in January as Martin Luther King Jr. Day amid a backlash brought on after the city’s social media accounts made reference instead to the occasion as “Great Americans Day.”

While President Ronald Reagan declared Martin Luther King Day a federal holiday in 1983, the Biloxi City Council voted unanimously two years later in favor of a name change that honors “other great Americans who have made important contributions to the birth, growth and evolution of this country.”

More than three decades down the road, “Great Americans Day” spurring controversy Friday upon being mentioned by the city’s social media accounts. 

“Non-emergency municipal offices in Biloxi will be closed on Monday in observance of Great Americans Day,” the city posted from its Facebook and Twitter accounts, triggering a backlash across social media before garnering reaction from the mayor’s office. 

Weighing in amid Friday’s firestorm, Biloxi Mayor Andrew Gilich said he believes the City Council should work towards a name change as soon as resuming work next week.

“As far as I’m concerned, it’s called ‘Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Day,’” Mr. Gilich said in a statement. 

Council members should begin taking steps on Tuesday towards update the city’s Code of Ordinances in a manner that reflects the official federal name of the holiday, commonly known as Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Day, he said in a statement. 

“In my opinion,” he added, “that is the appropriate step to take, for the holiday to have the same name as the federal holiday.”

“If there’s a perception of racism with not honoring the federal holiday and controversy over the name, the council would be willing to revisit and revise the 1985 ordinance,” he told WLOX, a local Fox affiliate, on Friday. 

In addition to the 1985 ordinance declaring the third Monday in January as “Great Americans Day” in Biloxi, last year Mississippi agreed to begin observing the birthday of both the civil rights leader and Civil War general Robert E. Lee on that date. 

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