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Arkansas Governor Wants Civil War Icon Separated From MLK Holiday

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Arkansas Governor Wants Civil War Icon Separated From MLK Holiday

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By Steve Barnes

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (Reuters) – U.S. civil rights hero Martin Luther King Jr. and Civil War Confederate commander General Robert E. Lee will share a common holiday on Monday in three southern states, but perhaps for the final time in one of them, Arkansas.

The state’s Republican governor is pushing to separate the joint celebration after critics said it is an insult for the man who fought to end racial segregation to share a day with a man who fought to preserve slavery.

“They need to be distinguished and separate,” Governor Asa Hutchinson told a news conference this month about the remembrances.

Arkansas, Mississippi and Alabama for years have observed a joint holiday for King and Lee, whose birthdays are just four days apart.

Arkansas in the 1940s set up a day in mid-January to honor Lee and created a holiday for King in 1983. Two years after that, it combined the two for a joint day marked on the third Monday in January.

In January 2015, Arkansas lawmakers defeated a bill that would have reserved the January date for King and established a memorial day, although not a holiday, for Lee in November.

Racial sensitivity has been heightened across the South following the murders of nine black worshippers at a Charleston, South Carolina church in June 2015 by a suspected gunman who is a white supremacist and adorned his social media website with Confederate regalia. 

The shooting caused many Southern states to re-examine symbols of the Confederacy.

Arkansas State Representative Fred Love, a Democrat who led the unsuccessful campaign in 2015 to separate the joint holiday, said passing the measure would be a winner in terms of race relations.

“It would show how far we’ve come,” he said.

For many in Arkansas, Lee remains a revered figure who fought with dignity for the South.

Representative Jeff Wardlaw, a Democrat who voted against Love’s bill, said his conservative constituents are concerned Lee would be officially disregarded.

“I’m the kind of guy who does what his constituents tell him they want, and last year they indicated they didn’t want a change,” Wardlaw said.

Hutchinson wants lawmakers to pass legislation that gives King a day of his own when they meet for a regular session in the Republican-dominated statehouse

“It’s important that that day be distinguished and separate and focused on the civil rights struggle and what he personally did in that effort,” Hutchinson said.

(Reporting by Steve Barnes; Writing by Jon Herskovitz; Editing by Paul Simao)

Photo: Arkansas Governor Asa Hutchinson (C) chats after a news conference in Havana, Cuba September 28, 2015. REUTERS/Alexandre Meneghini

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9 Comments

  1. Otto Greif January 17, 2016

    Lee was a great man, it’s an insult to him to have to share a holiday with KIng.

    Reply
    1. Sand_Cat January 17, 2016

      The only insults are your racist and malicious posts.

      Reply
    2. yabbed January 18, 2016

      Your racism is unrelenting and offensive to decent people.

      Reply
  2. Otto Greif January 17, 2016

    August 9, 1960

    Dear Dr. Scott:

    Respecting your August 1 inquiry calling attention to my often expressed admiration for General Robert E. Lee, I would say, first, that we need to understand that at the time of the War between the States the issue of secession had remained unresolved for more than 70 years. Men of probity, character, public standing and unquestioned loyalty, both North and South, had disagreed over this issue as a matter of principle from the day our Constitution was adopted.

    General Robert E. Lee was, in my estimation, one of the supremely gifted men produced by our Nation. He believed unswervingly in the Constitutional validity of his cause which until 1865 was still an arguable question in America; he was a poised and inspiring leader, true to the high trust reposed in him by millions of his fellow citizens; he was thoughtful yet demanding of his officers and men, forbearing with captured enemies but ingenious, unrelenting and personally courageous in battle, and never disheartened by a reverse or obstacle. Through all his many trials, he remained selfless almost to a fault and unfailing in his faith in God. Taken altogether, he was noble as a leader and as a man, and unsullied as I read the pages of our history.

    From deep conviction, I simply say this: a nation of men of Lee’s calibre would be unconquerable in spirit and soul. Indeed, to the degree that present-day American youth will strive to emulate his rare qualities, including his devotion to this land as revealed in his painstaking efforts to help heal the Nation’s wounds once the bitter struggle was over, we, in our own time of danger in a divided world, will be strengthened and our love of freedom sustained.

    Such are the reasons that I proudly display the picture of this great American on my office wall.

    Sincerely,

    Dwight D. Eisenhower

    Reply
    1. FireBaron January 18, 2016

      Also for your personal information (not that you would have bothered to check this out), Lee was an outstanding student at the USMA, where he is still the only Cadet to graduate with 0 demerits (something you would never be likely to do). In addition, his tenure at the USMA as Commandant brought many new concepts in training to the academy.
      Oh, and one other thing your bigoted little head probably was unaware of – Lee did not believe in the institution of slavery but was stuck dealing with it. He also proposed freeing Black slaves, enlisting them in the CSA, and after victory, sending them to the Western States to serve as Indian fighters. In this, he actually proposed what became “the Buffalo Soldiers”.

      Reply
  3. Otto Greif January 17, 2016

    “I am very happy to take part in this unveiling of the statue of General Robert E. Lee. All over the United States we recognize him as a great leader of men, as a great general. But, also, all over the United States I believe that we recognize him as something much more important than that. We recognize Robert E. Lee as one of our greatest American Christians and one of our greatest American gentlemen.” – Franklin D. Roosevelt.

    Reply
    1. FireBaron January 18, 2016

      Different times. I am surprised you didn’t bring up that Lee was a Democrat! Most racists like yourself do so on a regular basis, forgetting that the Democratic party started its final break from its segregationist past in the Truman Administration and finalized it with the Johnson Administration. Now all of those segs and sesechs are firmly ensconced in the Republican Party. Every time someone in your party leadership says, “We must become more embracing to others (i.e. Blacks, Hispanics, Women, Gays)”, the Segregationists and Secessionists elected to the House and Senate double down on their discriminatory rhetoric. Every time they are asked to tone it down, individuals running for the Presidency sound more like a certain Austrian Immigrant to Germany running for the Reichstag in 1933.

      Reply
  4. yabbed January 18, 2016

    Robert E Lee was a seditionist. He might have been a “gentleman” in his manners, but he was a traitor who led an insurrection against the United States of America. Attacking a United States military base is treason. He should have been hanged along with all the others who engaged in sedition.

    Reply
  5. LeftCoastLeftie January 18, 2016

    Hutchinson said “we need to honor a great American for his fight for freedom for his people, and besides, the other guy’s a Ne**o, so who cares about him?”

    Reply

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