Lee-Jackson Day

From “Lee and Jackson Last Meeting” by Everett B.D. Fabrino Julio (1843 – 1879)

Over the last year, there has been a great deal said, a great deal of controversy, and sadly, a great deal of violence over the issue of Confederate monuments and the history of the Civil War.

Richmond, Virginia has long been known as the Capitol of the Confederacy, and the city with its large African American population still struggles with that.

Some say tear the monuments down. Some say they must stay.

There’s a lot to be said about the tourism dollars that come to the city and the state because of the history.

There’s no easy answer.

That’s why, in part, back in the 1990s, a compromise was born.

For years, Virginia celebrated Lee-Jackson Day on the third Monday of January.

When that day became the federal day honoring Martin Luther King, Jr., for a while, Virginia celebrated Lee-Jackson-King Day.

Then Governor Jim Gilmore signed legislation designating the preceding Friday as Lee-Jackson Day while maintaining the third Monday as Martin Luther King, Jr. Day.

State employees got a four-day weekend, just two weeks after the New Year’s Holiday.

History is complicated. Sometimes it isn’t pretty.

But, it’s always fascinating.

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Today is Lee-Jackson Day in Virginia

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Since 1889 Virginia has celebrated the birthday of Robert E. Lee. In 1904 Stonewall Jackson’s name was added. Both men had birthdays in January. The day was celebrated on the third Monday of the month.

But in 1983 the third Monday of January became the federal holiday honoring Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. For a time Virginia celebrated the day as Lee-Jackson-King Day.

In 2000 that was changed and now Virginia Celebrates Lee-Jackson Day on the Friday before Martin Luther King. Jr. Day.

Not all localities celebrate Lee-Jackson Day, but state offices are close on both Friday and Monday of that weekend.

Robert E. Lee (January 19, 1807 – october 12, 1870) was the commanding general of the Confederate Army of Northern Virginia until such time as he surrendered to Ulysses S. Grant at Appomattox, Virginia in 1865. Following the war, Lee served as President of what is now Washington and Lee University in Lexington, Virginia.

Thomas J. “Stonewall” Jackson (January 21, 1824 – May 10, 1863) was perhaps the best known Confederate general after Robert E. Lee. Jackson was accidentally shot by Confederate troops at the Battle of Chancellorsville on May 2, 1863. He lost an arm to amputation and died eight days later from complications of pneumonia.

Both Lee and Jackson are honored with statues along Richmond’s famed Monument Avenue.

History isn’t always pretty, but it’s always worth remembering.