To many, they are an unlikely trio for an official Virginia state holiday -- Civil War heroes Robert E. Lee and Thomas (Stonewall) Jackson and civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr.
Not so odd, says state Sen. L. Douglas Wilder (D-Richmond), whose 10-year fight to have a state holiday for King succeeded last year when Lee-Jackson Day was renamed Lee-Jackson-King Day. It was observed for the first time today.
"Lee, by every account, was an honorable man," said Wilder. "So was Jackson and so was King. They believed in right -- all three -- only the perception of right differed markedly."
Today's holiday passed quietly. There were brief, traditional salutes to Lee and Jackson in both the House and Senate. An observance for King was held in both chambers on his birthday, Jan. 15.
All that was left today were wilting flowers that circled the statue of Lee and bust of Jackson in the old House chamber of the Capitol. Memories of the fight over King's honor are fading too.
"I think combining the names for one holiday is appropriate," Wilder said, suggesting the state could not and does not want to deny its past. "You recognize Virginia for what it is. Virginia's heritage is as rich as it has ever been.