Confederate Gen. Lee gets his holiday in Alabama

Published 6:52 pm Monday, January 19, 2009

MONTGOMERY — About 30 people gathered at the Confederate Monument on the state Capitol grounds Monday to mark the part of Alabama’s dual state holiday that attracts the smallest crowds and least attention.

The group came to honor Confederate General Robert E. Lee. The third Monday in January was a state holiday recognizing Lee long before the Legislature made it a dual holiday also honoring civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr.

The event, organized by the Alabama Division of the Sons of Confederate Veterans, began about an hour after more than 1,500 people marched to the Capitol steps to remember King.

Robert Reames of Birmingham, state commander for the Sons of Confederate Veterans, said it’s a mistake to describe Lee as merely “a great American.”

“He was the greatest American and perhaps the greatest man that our race has ever produced,” Reames told the small group.

Retired railroad worker Bill Anthony of Tallassee wore a gray Confederate uniform to the event and complained that Lee gets overlooked with Alabama’s dual holiday.

“Political correctness has overruled the fact it’s a joint holiday,” he said.

State Rep. Alvin Holmes, who organized the King march, said there is no overlap between the people who attend the two events, but there is never any trouble.

Holmes, D-Montgomery, said people have grown accustomed to the joint holiday and back-to-back events at the Capitol because the two men’s birthdays were so close — King on Jan. 15 and Lee on Jan. 19.

“Nobody can control what day they were born on,” he said.