JCMMD

DON"T PANIC

Governor of Arizona in 1986

Posted by jcmaziquemd on January 17, 2011

Martin Luther King Day

Evan Mecham gained national attention several days after inauguration by fulfilling his campaign promise to cancel a paid MLK Day holiday for state employees. The holiday had been created in May 1986 by executive order from the previous governor, Bruce Babbitt, after the state legislature had voted not to create the holiday. Following the creation of the holiday, the state Attorney General‘s office issued an opinion that the paid holiday was illegal and threatened to sue the incoming governor over the cost of the paid holiday as it had not been approved by the legislature. Despite the issues of the legality of how the holiday was created, Mecham replied to comments from civil rights activists and the Black community after the cancellation by saying "King doesn’t deserve a holiday." This was followed by him telling a group of black community leaders, "You folks don’t need another holiday. What you folks need are jobs."[26][27] The press’s focus on the racial aspects of the cancellation, ignoring the legality questions or other possible justifications, were such that The New York Times reported the possibility of bias against Mecham.[17]

In reaction to the cancellation, a protest march to the state capital was held on January 19, 1987, the day the holiday would have occurred. Conventions scheduled to be held in Arizona were canceled, and performer Stevie Wonder announced a boycott of the state. After several months of criticism, Mecham declared a non-paid holiday on the third Sunday in January. Reaction in the state to the non-paid holiday was generally poor.[17]

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