State employees will have Monday off, thanks to either a slain civil rights leader or the commanding officer of the Confederate Army. Every year, state offices are closed the third Monday of January to honor Martin Luther King Junior and Confederate General Robert E. Lee. Arkansas is one of three states to commemorate both men with a state holiday. The others are Alabama and Mississippi.
Commemorating Lee's birth dates to 1943, when Arkansas legislators declared it one of several "memorial days" the governor would commemorate by a proclamation. In 1947, legislators amended the law to name January 19th a legal holiday in honor of the Confederate general.
In 1983, lawmakers voted to recognize Martin Luther King Jr. Day as an official state holiday, but required state employees to choose which two holidays they wanted off -- either King's birthday on January 15, Lee's birthday on January 19 or the employee's birthday. During the next regular legislative session in 1985, they voted to combine King and Lee's holiday commemorations for the third Monday in January. Employees got to keep their birthdays as a holiday. Arkansas also has another combination commemoration. On President's Day, the third Monday in February, the state recognizes Daisy Gaston Bates, who mentored the nine black students who integrated Little Rock Central High School under Army guard in 1957.