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Mississippi City Officially Declares Third Monday of January MLK Jr. Day

It’s official: the city of Biloxi, Miss., will now celebrate Martin Luther King Jr. Day on the third Monday of January.

The change, announced Monday in a statement posted on the city’s website, came after an avalanche of criticism over what Biloxi had previously called the holiday: “Great Americans Day.”

Image: City of Biloxi's tweet that declared Monday "Great Americans Day" instead of Martin Luther King Jr. Day.
City of Biloxi's tweet that declared Monday "Great Americans Day" instead of Martin Luther King Jr. Day. Twitter

The city council voted unanimously to amend a 1985 ordinance that honored King, along with “other great Americans who have made important contributions to the birth, growth and evolution of the country,” Biloxi Mayor Andrew "FoFo" Gilich said in a statement Friday.

Though the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday was established in 1983, three states — Mississippi, Alabama and Arkansas — also celebrate the birth of the Confederate general Robert E. Lee on the third Monday of January.

On Monday, Gilich said the city would now call the holiday “what we’ve celebrated it as for years: Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Day.”

The criticism was prompted by messages posted to the city's Twitter and Facebook accounts on Friday afternoon advising readers that non-emergency municipal officers would be closed Monday “in observance of Great Americans Day.”

The posts have since been deleted, but the backlash was swift.

Mayor Gilich responded just as swiftly. In a statement posted on the city’s website late Friday, he called on the city council to immediately update Biloxi’s ordinances.

"That is the appropriate step to take, for the holiday to have the same name as the federal holiday," he said.

The council assembled on Monday morning, not long before the city's Martin Luther King Jr. Parade was to begin, during special meeting where than a dozen people spoke, the Biloxi Sun Herald reported.

One of them, Ella Holmes-Hines, described the vote Monday this way, according to the newspaper: “The only thing we can do with darkness is shed light.”