Why today is no longer Robert E. Lee day in Georgia

City workers drape a tarp over the statue of Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee in Emancipation Park in Charlottesville, Va. AP file/Steve Helber

The Friday after Thanksgiving has for decades been known in Georgia as Robert E. Lee’s Birthday. But this year, the day goes by the much more neutral title: “State Holiday.”

Most state employees will still take Friday off, but they will no longer officially be memorializing the Confederate general. That’s because Gov. Nathan Deal in late 2015 struck Confederate Memorial Day and Robert E. Lee’s birthday from the state’s official holiday calendar, replacing them with less controversial nomenclature.

Deal’s decision to quietly change the names came amid increased scrutiny of Georgia’s embrace of Confederate symbols after the massacre of nine black worshippers at a Charleston church by a white supremacist.

Since then, state-issued license plates featuring the Rebel emblem have been altered, though only slightly. Statues and paintings of Confederate leaders in the statehouse are facing fresh criticism.

A statue of Martin Luther King Jr. now stands in a prominent corner on statehouse grounds, and lawmakers are gearing up for a debate next year over legislation that would allow local officials to remove Confederate statues. State law passed in 2001 gives the Legislature authority over such monuments.

In a 2015 interview, Deal said the change was meant to “show that we are a state that has come a very long way.”

“It’s hopefully a good faith effort on the part of state government to lower the degree of debate and discussion, and to show that we are a state that has come a very long way,” he said. “We are tolerant of a lot of things. But we will also protect our heritage. But this was not one of those areas where I thought it was necessary to keep those labels associated with the holiday.”

The debate, of course, rages on.

The Sons of Confederate Veterans, which labeled the governor’s move “an act of dishonor,” recently sent an email to members notifying them it has hired a lobbying firm to help influence the debate over the thorny question of Confederate monuments in changing communities.

And Democrats are already mustering behind a proposal: Two Democratic legislators, Sen. Elena Parent of Atlanta and Rep. Mary Margaret Oliver of Decatur, have introduced legislation that would permit local governments to determine the fate of Confederate monuments on their ground.

Check out other recent AJC coverage of this issue:

Long time coming: MLK statue unveiled at Georgia Capitol

Confederate group hires a lobbyist for a 2018 fight over statues

Georgia gears up for fraught legislative debate on Rebel monuments

Abrams calls for removal of Confederate faces off Stone Mountain

 

Reader Comments 1

38 comments
ChristopherInATL
ChristopherInATL

The only reason I keep my business here in Georgia is because Atlanta doesn't act like a typical Southern redneck city. The Confederacy is nothing to be proud of. Those that pretend it isn't about race are liars and racists themselves.

Happilyretiredmark
Happilyretiredmark

Deal has been a huge disappointment turning his back on those that put him in office several times in order to try and appease those that did all they could to keep him out of office and will never support him.  Happy day when he is gone.

Olivia......
Olivia......

i̾ j̾u̾s̾t̾ b̾e̾g̾a̾n̾ a̾ m̾o̾n̾t̾h̾ a̾n̾d̾ a̾ h̾a̾l̾f̾ b̾a̾c̾k̾ a̾n̾d̾ i̾'v̾e̾ g̾o̾t̾t̾e̾n̾ 2 c̾h̾e̾c̾k̾ f̾o̾r̾ a̾n̾ a̾g̾g̾r̾e̾g̾a̾t̾e̾ o̾f̾ $3,200...t̾h̾i̾s̾ i̾s̾ t̾h̾e̾ b̾e̾s̾t̾ c̾h̾o̾i̾c̾e̾ i̾ s̾e̾t̾ a̾s̾i̾d̾e̾ a̾ f̾e̾w̾ m̾i̾n̾u̾t̾e̾s̾! "m̾u̾c̾h̾ t̾h̾a̾n̾k̾s̾ t̾o̾ y̾o̾u̾ f̾o̾r̾ g̾i̾v̾i̾n̾g̾ m̾e̾ t̾h̾i̾s̾ r̾e̾m̾a̾r̾k̾a̾b̾l̾e̾ c̾h̾a̾n̾c̾e̾ t̾o̾ p̾r̾o̾f̾i̾t̾ f̾r̾o̾m̾ h̾o̾m̾e̾. t̾h̾i̾s̾ a̾d̾d̾i̾t̾i̾o̾n̾a̾l̾ m̾o̾n̾e̾y̾ h̾a̾s̾ c̾h̾a̾n̾g̾e̾d̾ m̾y̾ l̾i̾f̾e̾ i̾n̾ s̾u̾c̾h̾ a̾ v̾a̾r̾i̾e̾t̾y̾ o̾f̾ w̾a̾y̾s̾, e̾x̾p̾r̾e̾s̾s̾ g̾r̾a̾t̾i̾t̾u̾d̾e̾ t̾o̾w̾a̾r̾d̾ y̾o̾u̾!"

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GTJohn
GTJohn

Amazing that statues and dates on a calendar can divide a nation so.  Why don't we tackle some real problems such as excessive taxation, corruption in all of government just for starters.

Greg Pearson
Greg Pearson

This article is incorrect. Georgia still legally recognizes Robert E Lee's birthday and confederate memorial day as state holidays. Simply because governor deal choses to break the l aw does not mean the law does not exist.

If one reads the law concerning said holidays it states that the dates will be observed as they currently are (when the new code was adopted). Since the dates were observed as Lee's birthday and confederate memorial day they are still recognized as those holidays. What the governor has done is not different than him saying Dec 25 will be known as:federal holiday " on the state calender. Legally it's still Christmas. The governor does not have THE authority to change state law by himself.

Legally Lee's birthday and confederate memorial day are still holidays in Georgia.

IvanCohen
IvanCohen

@Greg Pearson If Georgia still legacy recognizes Robert E Lee's birthday and confederate memorial day state holidays. How come those days are not linked with sales of some sort like George Washington's and Abraham Lincoln's?

cyadra
cyadra

Never-mind the fact that he was probably one of the worst Generals in the war. 

Greg Pearson
Greg Pearson

Obviously you've never studied military tactics or history. The u.s. military still studies Lee's tactics. He is considered one of America's better generals.

72DCSD99
72DCSD99

@cyadra Lincoln asked REL to head the Union army and Lee turned him down.  You must be thinking of Stagger Lee.

Doomy
Doomy

"Gee it’s only taken 150 years to realize you don’t honor traitors."


And that's because Georgia was ruled by Dems the first 150 years after the civil war. It took a Republican to end it. Btw you do know the KKK was founded as the paramilitary arm of the Democrat party. Basic history, sir. 

JKToole
JKToole

@Doomy 

Georgia was ruled by Dems because Lincoln was a Republican.

You'll recall it was a Democratic Governor who changed the Georgia flag. It cost him a second term. His GOP successor ran on the issue. He campaigned on the lie that he would let the voters decide on what flag should represent the state.

When did that vote occur? Still waiting I guess. Kind of like that Mexico financed wall along our Southern border.

Oh, and the GOP of today is the Democratic party of yore. The current governor, when he was first elected, what party did he belong to?

And anyone who knows anything about the South, knows about the southern strategy first instituted by Goldwater and perfected by Nixon.

https://rationalwiki.org/wiki/Southern_strategy

Greg Pearson
Greg Pearson

A Republican has not ended anything. Legality Georgia still observes Lee's birthday and confederate memorial day each year, unless Davis's birthday is chosen in place of one of them. The governor IS required to chose 2 of the 3 dates to be observed each year. Governor deal does not have the authority to change state law by himself.

IvanCohen
IvanCohen

@JKToole @Doomy Let it not be forgotten that the southern strategy perfected by Nixon was a tactic out flank Alabama governor George C. Wallace.

Tealiban_Party
Tealiban_Party

Gee it’s only taken 150 years to realize you don’t honor traitors.

Greg Pearson
Greg Pearson

You really should study history and the constitution more. Legally Lee could not be a traitor as secession is legal under the federal constitution. Since Lee was no longer a u.s. citizen he did not commit treason.

Before you argue secession is not legal find some original documents from the founding to support your assertion.

1. The constitution allows it.

2. The constitutional convention accepted secession as a state's right.

3. There are direct qoutes from Washington, Jefferson, Madison, Adams, and others saying it is legal.

If you need sources let me know.

canoe4ever
canoe4ever

@Greg Pearson Greg you may wish to examine the Nullification Crisis of 1832 to learn how President Andrew Jackson approached the question of secession by none other than South Carolina. He was prepared to send in US troops to enforce the Rule of Law, in opposition to his former Vice President John Calhoun. Perhaps you thought Andrew Jackson to have been a States Rights president? Close study may prove otherwise.

Alanna.....
Alanna.....

ḭ ḧḀṼḕ ḉṙḕḀṮḕḊ $18376 ḭṆ ṏṆḕ ṁṏṆṮḧ ḃẏ ṁḕṙḕḶẏ ḊṏḭṆḠ ṠḭṁṖḶḕ ṏṆ-ḶḭṆḕ ẇṏṙḲ ḟṙṏṁ ḧṏṁḕ. ḕṼḕṙẏḃṏḊẏ ṆḕḕḊṠ Ṯṏ ḃḕḉṏṁḕ ḶṏḀḊḕḊ ṖṙḕṠḕṆṮḶẏ ḀṆḊ ẇḭṠḧḕṠ Ṯṏ ḶḭṼḕ Ḁ Ḷḭḟḕ ṮḧḀṮ ẇḕ'Ṽḕ ḀṆ ḭṆḉḶḭṆḀṮḭṏṆ Ṯṏ ḀṠḉḕṙṮḀḭṆ ḭṆ ḃḀṙḕḶẏ ḊṙḕḀṁṠ. ṮḧḭṠ jṏḃ ḉḀṆ ḟṳḶḟḭḶ ẏṏṳṙ ḊṙḕḀṁṠ jṳṠṮ ḶḭḲḕ ṁḕ. ḕṼḕṙẏḃṏḊẏ ṏṳḠḧṮ Ṯṏ Ḋṏ ṮḧḀṮ jṏḃ ṖṙḕṠḕṆṮḶẏ ḀṆḊ ṠṮḀṙṮ ḕḀṙṆḭṆḠ ḟṙṏṁ ḧṏṁḕ ḊḭṙḕḉṮḶẏ. ṁḕṙḕḶẏ ṏṖḕṆ ṮḧḭṠ ḕḶḕḉṮṙṏṆḭḉ ḉṏṁṖṳṮḕṙ ḭṆ ẏṏṳṙ ḃṙṏẇṠḕṙ ḃẏ ḉṏṖẏ ḀṆḊ ṖḀṠṮḕ ṮḧḕṆ ḟṏḶḶṏẇ Ṯḧḕ ḭṆṠṮṙṳḉṮḭṏṆ Ṯṏ ṳṙḠḕ ṠṮḀṙṮḕḊ ṖṙḕṠḕṆṮḶẏ..

        ░A░M░A░Z░I░N░G░ ░J░O░B░S░

°°°°°°http://ow.ly/pqaC30fgvnI 


canoe4ever
canoe4ever

In that R E Lee's birthday was JANUARY 19, 1807, why would it ever have been celebrated in November? I spose this'll just have to remain one of life's great puzzles.

Greg Pearson
Greg Pearson

The state moved tje date to give state employees a long fall weekend. Kinda defeats the purpose of memorializing a date really.

northbysoutheast
northbysoutheast

Good! Get rid of all the flags, statues, street names, etc. of these spineless traitors.

Greg Pearson
Greg Pearson

Please study history and politics more. Treason was not committed as secession is legal under the federal constitution. Before you argue secession is not legal please find references from the founding fathers to support your assertion. It can be shown that

1. Secession is legal under the federal constitution

2. The constitutional convention accepted secession as a state's right.

3. There are direct qoutes from Washington, Jefferson, Madison, Adams and other founding fathers saying secession is a right.

If you need qoutes etc please let me know.

379 Peterbilt
379 Peterbilt

Spineless as the yank says? No matter what side they fought for, how do you consider going to war, fighting hand to hand, spineless? Hiding on a keyboard, commenting on a subject you obviously missed while smoking in the boys room, is closer to spineless than those men who fought for both sides and gave their lives doing so

northbysoutheast
northbysoutheast

Nowhere are states granted the right to secede. You take up arms against your country, you are a traitor.

Aileen_.
Aileen_.

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        ░A░M░A░Z░I░N░G░ ░J░O░B░S░

°°°°°°http://ow.ly/pqaC30fgvnI 

unknown911
unknown911

Repeal the 2001 compromise and the 1956 flag should return.

BeeWry
BeeWry

@northbysoutheast Nope, they want the flag that was created in response to blacks demanding an end to segregation.

Greg Pearson
Greg Pearson

There was no flag created in response to desegregation. If you read news articles, qoutes, the political arguments etc from 1956 you will see no reference to desegregation. It was designed and adopted as a "living memorial " to Georgia veterans during the centennial celebration of the civil war.

The argument you reference was made up by Tyrone Brooks in the early 1980s to forment division.

IvanCohen
IvanCohen

@Greg Pearson Contrary to what you might want to believe...the era of the docile Black man and Black woman (yas massa) is over.

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  1. […] There have been recent pushes in Georgia to bring an end to memorializing Confederate soldiers, and you may have noticed that the Friday after Thanksgiving, known for decades in Georgia as Robert E. Lee’s Birthday, was called “State Holiday” this year. […]

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