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Is Robert E. Lee’s birthday a legal holiday in North Carolina?

Ben Steelman
Robert E. Lee

Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee, center, with Gen. George Washington Custis Lee, left, and Col. Walter H. Taylor at Richmond, Va., on April 16, 1865. (Mathew B. Brady Studio photo, courtesy the Cape Fear Museum)

Technically, yes. According to Section 103-4 of the North Carolina General Statutes, Robert E. Lee’s birthday is recognized as a legal holiday in the state on Jan. 19.

So is Confederate Memorial Day, which in North Carolina falls on May 10. So is Martin Luther King’s birthday, which is observed on the third Monday in January, in line with federal practice.

State law, in fact, recognizes a whole slew of holidays, including Greek Independence Day (March 25), the anniversary of the Halifax Resolves (April 12) and the anniversary of the Mecklenburg Declaration of Independence (May 20).

In case you missed North Carolina history in school, the Halifax Resolves were a resolution by the Fourh Provencial Congress, adopted on April 12, 1776, empowering the province’s delegates to the Continental Congress to join with the other colonies to seek independence from Great Britain. It is considered an important, and early, step toward the Declaration of Independence. (It’s called the Halifax Resolves, by the way, since the Patriot leaders were meeting in Halifax, N.C.)

The Mecklenburg Declaration was supposedly signed by a committee of citizens in Charlotte, N.C., on May 20, 1775, declaring their independence more than a year before anybody else. This document is considered bogus by virtually all historians outside of Charlotte, since the text was not “rediscovered” until 1838, and the earliest copy existing appears to have been recreated from memory sometime after 1800. Nevertheless, both the dates of the Halifax Resolves and the Mcekleburg Declaration appear on North Carolina’s state flag.

All of these state holidays have been on the books for a while. (Lee’s birthday was formally adopted sometime around 1881.)

 In practice, however, they’re meaningless. According to the N.C. Office of State Personnel, the State Personnel Commission authorizes only the following holidays for state employees: New Year’s Day, Martin Luther King’s birthday, Good Friday, Memorial Day, Independence Day, Labor Day, Veterans Day, Thanksgiving and Christmas. (Employees, however, get two days off for Thanksgiving and three for Christmas.)

No state law compels private employers to give workers Robert E. Lee’s birthday off, or any of the other state holidays under Section 103-4.

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2 Responses to “ Is Robert E. Lee’s birthday a legal holiday in North Carolina?”

  1. On January 26, 2012 at 11:21 am Darrell Parks wrote:

    If you don’t get the day off with pay, it ain’t a holiday! LOL

  2. On January 30, 2012 at 11:46 pm Ho wrote:

    Welllllll,,, it should be.. Represents as much or more of the southern heritage as does the other holidays,,,,,,hmmmmm

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