This could be the last year the state of Alabama celebrates both Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and Robert E. Lee on the same day, if a Mobile senator has her way.
Sen. Vivian Figures will introduce legislation this week to separate the Confederate general’s holiday from that of the Civil Rights icon. Currently, Lee’s birthday is a state holiday and King’s is a national one.
“These were two men with opposite beliefs,” Figues said in a phone interview. “It makes all the sense in the world to separate the holidays.”
The bill would move Robert E. Lee Day to Oct. 12, which coincides with the date of his death, Figures said.
“This would give Lee his own day,” she said. “One that is significant to him.”
Figures has introduced the bill in both 2020 and 2021, but in each session, it didn’t advance out of the Government Affairs Committee in the Senate. If it advances to the House this year, Republican state Rep. Matt Simpson, of Daphne, will carry it in that chamber.
Previous iterations of the bill have garnered widespread bipartisan support, with up to as many as 28 co-sponsors, Figures said. Last year, GOP Rep. Steve McMillan carried the bill in the House.
The 2020 version of the bill enjoyed the support of local Republicans Sen. Chris Elliott, of Fairhope, and Sen. Greg Albritton, of Range. In an interview with Lagniappe, Elliott said he “understands and supports” the idea, but hadn’t seen the new version of the bill yet.
“I need to check with (Figures) about it,” he said.
Albritton also said he supports “the concept” of the bill, but hadn’t heard “a thing” about the new version.
“The idea that it’s more politically correct to give the day two different names irritates me,” he said. “I was asked by (Figures) to do this and there are very few things she and I agree on.”
Former Mobile Mayor and current Democratic State Rep. Sam Jones said he supports the change.
“I think they should be separated,” Jones said of the holidays. “It doesn’t make any sense to me. How do you celebrate two people on the same day?”
If the bill gets to a vote this year, Figures said she thinks it’ll be successful.
“I feel very good about it because I feel it’s the right thing to do,” she said.
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