Utah legislator proposes insult to Martin Luther King, Jr.: Share the holiday with gun inventor and manufacturer

February 18, 2010

First:  No, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., was not assassinated with a shot from a Browning rifle.  The gun alleged to have been used by the man convicted of the shooting, James Earl Ray, was a Remington Gamemaster 760.

It was found in a Browning box, however.

One of my Utah sources alerted me to this story, and I’ll let the conservative Deseret News give the facts:

Utah Legislature: Utah to get gun holiday on MLK day?

Holding both holidays on the same day was proposed as a money-saving measure, Niederhauser said. Madsen was not immediately available for comment.

By Lisa Riley Roche

Deseret News

Published: Wednesday, Feb. 17, 2010 8:46 p.m. MST
SALT LAKE CITY — The birthday of famed Ogden gunmaker John Browning would be celebrated as a state holiday on Martin Luther King Jr. Day under a new bill.

SB247, sponsored by Sen. Mark Madsen, R-Eagle Mountain, has yet to be drafted but is titled “John M. Browning State Holiday.”

According to Senate Majority Leader Scott Jenkins, R-Plain City, the holiday would be observed on Martin Luther King Jr. Day, the third Monday of every January.

King was born on Jan. 15, 1929, and assassinated in 1968. Browning’s birthday is believed to be around Jan. 21, and he died at age 71 in 1926. Jenkins acknowledged there is concern about celebrating both men on the same day.

Utah lawmakers had been criticized for beginning their annual legislative session on the same day as the King holiday until the state constitution was changed in 2008 to move the start date to the fourth Monday in January.

Then there is the question of whether a man who held 128 gun patents should share a holiday with a reverend who, before he was shot and killed, used non-violence to promote civil rights.

But Jenkins said, “Guns keep peace.”

Jeanetta Williams, president of the NAACP’s Salt Lake branch, said she was “furious” about the possibility.

“It is not acceptable for the name John M. Browning to jointly share the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. holiday,” she said. “Dr. King was assassinated by a man using a gun. John M. Browning was a gun manufacturer. … To me, it’s a very mean-spirited act. I’m not sure what is behind doing all of this.”

The NAACP has been involved with a number of legislative battles, particularly over the holiday’s name and a recent fight to have the Legislature delay its start so as not to overlap with the holiday.

“I am extremely adamant about not making any changes to this holiday,” Williams said. “We have fought too hard for this.”

Senate Minority Leader Pat Jones, D-Holladay, also questioned the idea.

“There’s probably many famous Utahns who might deserve their own day,” she said. “Let’s keep the day for someone who spent his life working in a peaceful manner for the goodwill of all Americans and not dilute the memory of his efforts.”

Senate Majority Whip Wayne Niederhauser said Madsen is open to moving the Browning holiday to a different day. “His main purpose is to honor John Browning,” Niederhauser said. “He’s a pioneer here in Utah.”  (Contributing: Aaron Falk)

Utah’s legislature can be pretty insulting in its intended actions.  I interned there in two different sessions.  Many of us recall that this legislature once proposed to rename the College of Southern Utah to avoid confusion about its acronym with a couple of other schools (Colorado State and Colorado Southern, among others).  The original bill would have renamed it “Southern Utah College.”

Alert interns picked up on the acronym problem right away, and the school was instead renamed Southern Utah State College (then University, now Southern Utah University).

Maybe we can find those interns, and alert the current legislature that they should not even consider this patently, blatantly offensive idea.


Millard Fillmore’s dollar picks up steam?

February 18, 2010

Buffalo Rising comments on the local events in Buffalo, New York, around the release of the Millard Fillmore dollar.

Oh, yeah, I forgot:  The U.S. Mint is giving away dollars to kids.  Free money.

Look at all the grousing about it in comments at Buffalo Rising.  Some people are never happy.  Not even with free money for the kids.

February 18: Millard Fillmore U.S. Dollar Day!

February 18, 2010

At a ceremony in Moravia, New York, today, the U.S. Mint will officially unveil and release the Millard Fillmore one-dollar coin.  Moravia is Fillmore’s birthplace.

Anna Prior’s story in the Wall Street Journal notes the contest between Moravia and nearby Buffalo for the heritage of Fillmore.  (Fillmore spent most of his life in Buffalo.)  All told and totalled, there may be more information out on Millard Fillmore in the newspapers today than you can find in most U.S. history texts.

Prior wrote:

Members of Moravia’s historical society say there’s more than enough Millard Fillmore to go around. Buffalo can claim Grover Cleveland, the 22nd and 24th president, who began his career there. “As a small town, we just have a few moments of history that are ours—and Fillmore is one of them,” says Roger Phillips, president of the Cayuga-Owasco Lakes Historical Society

Joyce Hackett Smith, former president of the historical society and a distant cousin of Fillmore’s, notes that the 13th president is more apt to be overlooked in a big city like Buffalo, which has a population of about 272,600, while every child at Millard Fillmore Elementary School in Moravia learns a lot about Fillmore.

“You ask a kid in Moravia, what was the first thing that Fillmore bought with the money he saved from working when he was young? They’ll tell you—a dictionary!” she says.

“We spent quite a lot of time in history class going over the things that Fillmore did,” says 57-year-old Lee Conklin, a lifelong Moravian and owner of an auto-parts store there. The late Robert Scarry, a Moravia history teacher, wrote a book detailing the president’s life.

Buy a newspaper today; buy a Wall Street Journal.  See if you get a Millard Fillmore dollar in change.


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