BILOXI, MS (WLOX) - In front of a crowded city council chamber Monday morning, Biloxi Mayor Andrew "FoFo" Gilich declared the third Monday in January as Martin Luther King, Jr. Day.
The city council approved the declaration and voted to change a city ordinance that called the day Great Americans Day instead of aligning with the federal holiday honoring King. The unanimous vote was met with an eruption of applause from those attending the meeting.
The special meeting was called to consider the ordinance change after social media posts from the city said offices would be closed for Great Americans Day, not Martin Luther King, Jr. Day. Those posts drew criticism from across the country.
Before the vote, several people spoke before the council to express their concern over the social media posts and their thanks to city leaders for quickly addressing the issue.
"Understandably, many around the country are concerned and bothered by the characterization of this day as Great Americans Day. However, this should not erase and overshadow the support and works the city administrators and employees have given to ensure the success if the MLK coastwide celebration," said Allytra Nunley Perryman, co-chair of the Coastwide Martin Luther King, Jr. Committee. "It's my understanding that the city leaders have acted swiftly and are taking the necessary steps to ensure this mistake is corrected, and we appreciate it."
"I give hats off to all of these council members that's up here today. My hat goes off to our mayor, Mr. FoFo Gilich, for taking the stand that he's taking," said a Biloxi woman who lives in Ward 2. "This didn't just start today. This been here 20 years, but today we can make it right."
In response to the naming uproar, the City of Biloxi published a Q&A background on how Monday's holiday came to be known as Great Americans Day in Biloxi: https://www.biloxi.ms.us/qa-the-mlk-story-and-how-it-occurred/