Happy Presidents, President's, Presidents Day

Dear President Party Participators:

Here we are with another three-day weekend.

In 1968, the United States 90th Congress passed H.R. 15951 An Act to provide for uniform annual observances of certain legal public holidays on Mondays, and for other purposes, usually abbreviated as the Uniform Monday Holiday Act. The original bill stipulated that several holidays be moved to Mondays, but the one commemorating Washington’s birthday remain fixed on the 22nd of February, a date set as a federal holiday by President Rutherford B. Hayes. However, Illinois House Representative and Judiciary Committee member Robert McClory of Lake Bluff had lost his bid to make Lincoln’s birthday, February 12, a federal holiday. The amendment failed in committee due to staunch opposition by the Virginia delegation. In response to his amendment’s defeat, McClory successfully amended the Uniform Monday Holiday Act, assigning Washington’s birthday celebration to the third Monday of February, a day never coinciding with the 22nd and always falling between the birthdays of the first and sixteenth presidents. (In fact, there are currently no presidential birthdays that fall during the possible dates of February 15-21.)

The House Bill wasn’t enacted into law until 1971, in executive action taken by President Richard Nixon, who formally stipulated the third Monday in February was Washington’s Birthday; but within the next 30 years, most states adopted the holiday as Presidents’ Day.

Illinois along with Connecticut and Missouri are the only states that celebrate today as Washington’s Birthday and recognize Lincoln’s Birthday as a distinct state holiday. Virginia remains the lone holdout with the third Monday of February as the celebration held exclusively as George Washington Day with no celebration for Honest Abe (take that, Representative McClory!).

In the category of grudges, Alabama exclusively recognizes Washington and Jefferson on Presidents’ Day, even though Jefferson’s birthday isn’t until April 13; but the good folks in the “Heart of Dixie” state remain firm in their dedication to not celebrate the birth of the great emancipator.

In a completely different direction on this day, Arkansas celebrates Washington’s Birthday concurrent with Daisy Lee Gatson Bates Day, remembering an author and civil rights activist whose journalism was pivotal in documenting the integration of Little Rock.

Furthermore, understanding how each state recognizes this holiday is a matter of punctuation. The location of an apostrophe speaks volumes, with 13 states providing the inclusive Presidents’ Day, nine designating the more limited President’s Day, and six specifying Washington and Lincoln’s Day, although Montana exclusively reverses the order, celebrating Lincoln and Washington’s Day. Four states don’t settle the issue of possession at all; they’re happy with the plural Presidents Day.  

If you’ve read this far in today’s musing, I’m pretty sure you’re glad it’s a day off, whatever the history, but after all this research I’m finding myself in the market for a good mattress. That explains everything.

Still annoyed that my brother’s October 12 Columbus Birthday keeps shifting to Mondays, I remain,

With Love,
Jonathan Krogh
Your Pastor