UPDATED Jan. 14: After a national firestorm and a No. 1 trend on Twitter, Biloxi Mayor Andrew “FoFo” Gilich said the Biloxi City Council on Tuesday, the day after the holiday, should change the city’s Code of Ordinances" to reflect the official federal name of the holiday, 'Birthday of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.,' commonly known as 'Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Day.'”
“In my opinion,” Gilich said in a statement on the city's website, “that is the appropriate step to take, for the holiday to have the same name as the federal holiday.”
The statement also conflicts with what city workers put out in social media yesterday, blaming the State of Mississippi for making the city call King Day "Great American's Day."
"The name has since been traced back to a City Council on Dec. 23, 1985 to proclaim the third Monday of every January “to honor Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. as well as other great Americans who have made important contributions to the birth, growth and evolution of this country.”
Presumably, among the other "great Americans" is Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee, who the State of Mississippi also honors the same day.
Did the State of Mississippi Rename MLK Day 'Great Americans Day'? Short answer: Not that we can figure out. The City of Biloxi apparently did rename the holiday, however, with local ordinance 15-2-2 declaring the third Monday of January as "Great American's Day. No sign of a state law, yet, however.
Still, the City of Biloxi is claiming that the State of Mississippi made 'em do it on its Facebook page (see image below), even as social media is starting to blow up nationally criticizing Biloxi, and maybe the whole state, for quietly changing the name of Martin Luther King Jr. Day to "Great Americans Day." Considering that Biloxi is the home of Jefferson Davis' museum-home, run by the Sons of Confederate Veterans, this does not completely surprise. (SCV are major opponents of changing the Mississippi flag).
The City of Biloxi posted this Friday: "Non-emergency municipal offices in Biloxi will be closed on Monday in observance of Great Americans Day, a state-named holiday.""
When challenged under the post, the unnamed Biloxi employee double-downed that this name came down from above: "The City of Biloxi did not declare nor name this holiday. The holiday was declared and named by the state Legislature. The city, in fact, as it has done for years, touted our upcoming MLK celebration in a Bmail and on the city website this afternoon."
The problem is that, so far, we have not found evidence that the state Legislature officially changed the name of the holiday, and lawmakers we've reached say they have no idea about it, either. Rep. Jay Hughes, D-Oxford, said on the Facebook page of Lea Campbell of the Mississippi Rising Coalition that the "Great Americans" name applies to a different holiday altogether: "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."
Now, we wouldn't be surprised if state leaders snuck something this racially fraught through on us; after, we broke the story last year that Gov. Phil Bryant had signed a declaration for Confederate Heritage Month but, oops, left it off the declarations page on his website until we revealed it had quietly happened, causing a national firestorm.
And then there is the issue that the State of Mississippi recognizes the same day as MLK Day as Robert E. Lee Day in the state because, you know, to each his own.
But, as of this writing, we kind of think Biloxi has it wrong about the State of Mississippi, but we'd sure love to know if a law crept onto the books without us knowing.
Tell us, if so. We're all ears.
Oh, and don't miss last night's story about a white south Mississippi publisher explaining in great detail about how "gangbangers" as young as 13 needed to be put in a circle and told to shoot each other with the one left standing getting a $10,000 prize. It was "satire," he told us.
Seriously, that happened.
Follow me on Twitter @donnerkay so you don't miss any tasty Mississippi morsels such as these.