Virginia Senate Votes To Remove Lee-Jackson Day, Make Election Day State Holiday If passed by the House, the bill would remove Lee-Jackson Day in favor of Elections Day on the Tuesday after the first Monday in November.
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NPR logo Virginia Senate Votes To Remove Lee-Jackson Day, Make Election Day State Holiday

Virginia Senate Votes To Remove Lee-Jackson Day, Make Election Day State Holiday

A statue of Stonewall Jackson on Monument Avenue in Richmond, Va. Paul Joseph/Flickr hide caption

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A bill scrapping a state holiday named after two Confederate generals passed Virginia's state Senate on Tuesday.

The legislation, introduced by Sen. Louise Lucas (D), passed the assembly with a 22-18 vote in favor of removing Lee-Jackson Day in the Commonwealth and making Election Day a state holiday.

The measure will now move to the House where Del. Joseph C. Lindsey (D) first introduced similar legislation in December. Lee-Jackson Day is currently observed on the Friday before Martin Luther King Jr. Day.

The holiday was founded in 1889 during the administration of Gov. Fitzhugh Lee, a nephew of Gen. Robert E. Lee, and was amended 15 years later to include Thomas "Stonewall" Jackson. Outside Virginia, several Southern states observe the holiday including Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina and South Carolina. In Texas, its called "Confederate Heroes Day."

In 1984, Virginia's General Assembly added a third name: Martin Luther King, Jr., a controversial decision creating Lee-Jackson-King Day, honoring two Confederate generals and a civil rights icon. When MLK Day was separated from the others in 2000, the holiday again reverted to Lee-Jackson Day.

But several localities in the Commonwealth, especially Northern Virginia counties, did not observe the holiday even before legislative measures were introduced. Fairfax, Arlington, Loudoun counties, the cities of Fredericksburg and Charlottesville, and the state capital, Richmond all refused to recognize Lee-Jackson Day.

Democratic Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam supported the idea of making Election Day a holiday and doing away with Lee-Jackson Day in his State of the Commonwealth speech earlier this month.

"We need to make Election Day a holiday. We can do it by ending the Lee-Jackson holiday that Virginia holds. ... It commemorates a lost cause. It's time to move on," he said at the time.

Some, however, support keeping the holiday as is. At an annual celebration of Lee-Jackson Day in Lexington last week, more than 100 people marched through the town's main street singing Civil War-era songs, according to The Roanoke Times.

One parade member told the Times from his perch on a horse, "I think Stonewall Jackson and Robert E. Lee are some of the greatest men to have ever lived. Great men, and we're all getting washed away."

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