Bill Removing Confederate Holidays Heads Next To Panel Led By Descendant Of Soldier

Feb 7, 2018

Will a descendant of a Confederate soldier be willing to agenda a controversial bill that’s next heading to his Florida Senate committee? The measure would get rid of certain holidays on the Florida books, which includes Confederate Memorial Day.

When it comes to observed holidays, some of the more well-known ones include New Year’s Day, Thanksgiving’s Day, and Veteran’s Day. Even, Martin Luther King Day just passed last month.

Four days after that is the birthday of Robert E. Lee, who served as the commander of the Confederates States Army during the Civil War.

Since 1895, his birthday’s been considered a legal Florida holiday along with Confederate Memorial Day.

Ten years later, the birthday of Jefferson Davis—a President of the Confederate States—also became a legal holiday.

Now, more than a century later, Sen. Lauren Book (D-Plantation) wants to remove them as state holidays.

“This bill would repeal the legal holidays in Florida for Confederate Memorial Day and the birthdays of Robert E. Lee and Jefferson Davis,” she said.

And, Book says the goal behind her bill is simple.

“I’ve been a Floridian my entire life, born and raised, and I love, appreciate, and honor our state’s unique heritage and culture—from the melting pot that is South Florida to North Florida’s warm Southern charm,” she added. “Our diversity is part of what makes our state so great. Our history is rich and undeniable, and no one is seeking to erase that. However, I believe we must underscore diversity and undercut tributes that celebrate the Confederacy, which upheld the institution of slavery and perpetuated inequality and division in our country.”

But, Mary Barlow—also a native Floridian--doesn’t feel that way. As a mother, she says she’s strongly against Book’s bill.    

“And, I’ve been here, my family has been here for seven generations,” said Barlow. “We helped settle Putnam County. These men, these holidays…these are celebrations that I was raised up on. These are men that my three boys—son to be my four boys—they were raised up to honor. These are strong white role models that the South…we still deserve to have our heroes.”

And, Henry Russ—a Jacksonville resident—agrees.

“This is nothing more than cultural genocide, and when you erase the minority—and the Southern white people are in the minority—and you take away our monuments and our heroes, that is cultural genocide plain and simple,” he said.

As for Book, she says while she understands their passions, this is the right thing to do.

“This is a very sensitive issue, and with respect to everyone, I do understand that, and I don’t do this lightly,” Book stated.

And, the Senate Community Affairs Committee passed the measure on a 4-2 vote, with two Republicans opposed. The measure now heads to a committee chaired by Ocala Republican Senator Dennis Baxley, a descendant of a Confederate soldier. His thoughts on the bill? Baxley calls the measure “disheartening.”

“This bill does nothing to change anything or accomplish anything,” he stated. “It just simply insults these people about their ancestors. I wish this cultural purge would stop. I don’t think it’s healthy for us. It’s creating division, and I think it’s disrespectful to our ancestors. And, whatever you think of their history, without them we wouldn’t even be here.”

So, having said that, is Baxley willing to hear the bill in his Senate Governmental and Oversight committee?

“Well, I try to never pre-suppose these things,” he added. “You know, I always try to listen to the sponsor, but my opinion of this approach of erasing our history and somehow disparaging and discrediting others is not a productive thing. So, we’ll give it due consideration.”

Meanwhile, its House companion bill has not yet had a hearing.

For more news updates, follow Sascha Cordner on Twitter: @SaschaCordner.