City of Biloxi under fire for 'Great Americans Day' post

Published: Jan. 14, 2017 at 1:40 AM CST|Updated: Jan. 14, 2017 at 3:39 PM CST
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(Photo source: Facebook)
(Photo source: Facebook)

BILOXI, MS (WLOX) - Just three days before the federal observation of one of the most notable civil rights leaders, the City of Biloxi has found itself in the middle of a social media war.

Shortly before 7 p.m., the city posted on its Facebook page that they would be closed on the third Monday of the month. The problem - they didn't reference the day as Martin Luther King, Jr. Day.

Instead, the city told nearly 30,000 people on Facebook that non-emergency municipal offices would be closed in observance of "Great Americans Day." The city has since deleted the post after news agencies around the country picked up the story, garnering it thousands of shares and comments.

Joseph Wallace tweeted, "I keep trying to believe the south has progressed, guess not as much as some advertise."

On Facebook, Takasia M. said in part, "....How incredibly disrespectful. We will not take away someone who did so much for this country to have it whitewashed by the same state who was against him to begin with."

Representatives for the City of Biloxi declined to comment, only saying the name change to honor King and Confederate Army Gen. Robert E. Lee was part of state legislature.

Miss. Code Ann. § 3-3-7 states that the third Monday of the month is to be observed for the birthdays of both men. The code does not state the renaming.

However, archived

In a Facebook thread, State Rep. Jay Hughes posted, "Great Americans Day is a combination of all presidents days, an alternative for Washington's Birthday. It has been recognized as the first Monday after the super bowl. MLK day is still MLK day. It is before the superbowl [sic]."

WLOX has reached out to Hughes, who posted that he is not aware of purported state legislation, for a comment.

After hours of backlash, a statement from Biloxi Mayor FoFo Gilich was posted on Facebook, noting that he recognizes the day as "Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Day.

"We definitely want to remove any doubt that that piece of paper or that term or official name. We can correct that," Gilich told WLOX Friday night. "My direction to the folks who handle those responsibilities, as far as I'm concerned, it is Martin Luther King. If we have to do something to match the designation by the federal government of the holiday, then we will."

Only three states combine the celebration of King and Lee's birthdays; Mississippi, Alabama, and Arkansas. In 2015, the latter proposed a bill - which went on to fail - to eliminate the dual status of the 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," the mayor added.

The mayor says he believes the City Council should take steps in its Jan. 17 meeting to have the holiday re-named to reflect the federal name.

While it's uncertain at this point if Mississippi will be triumphant in the battle brewing online, WLOX is working to learn more.

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