COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) -- Gov. Jim Hodges signed a bill Monday that officially institutes a Martin Luther King Jr. holiday for state
workers in South Carolina, but the NAACP criticized the measure because it also creates a Confederate Memorial Day.
South Carolina became the last state in the nation to fully recognize the King holiday as a day off for all state workers.
Before Monday, state employees could choose to take the day off, or one of three Confederate-related holidays.
Until recently, some states had the holiday but did not name it for King, preferring to call it Civil Rights Day, for example.
Hodges said the compromise that also made the Confederate holiday, May 10, a day off for all state workers, was necessary for the bill to pass the Legislature, which is embroiled in debate over whether to remove the Confederate flag from the Statehouse dome.
"In my judgment, passing a King holiday is a very important step for South Carolina, and that if I did not sign it, chances are that we might not get one next year," Hodges said. "In fact, we might not get one five years from now."
The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People is urging people to boycott South Carolina until the Confederate flag comes down from the Statehouse. James Gallman, president of the NAACP's state chapter, asked Hodges to veto the King holiday
"Frankly, if I remember my history, we celebrate Memorial Day on the last Monday in May," Gallman said. "I don't see why there
should be another Memorial Day."
State Sen. Robert Ford, a black Democrat who sponsored the bill, said King wanted the races to come together and would have supported both holidays.
The new law eliminates South Carolina's Election Day holiday and the floating holiday for state offices.
The Legislature approved the bill last month after a bitter fight in the Republican-controlled House. The bill failed on its first try and was approved only after lawmakers attached amendments that protected Confederate monuments and proclaimed the Confederate
flag is not a racist symbol.
As early as next week, the House could begin debate on a bill that would remove the flag and fly a similar banner at a monument on Statehouse grounds that honors Confederate soldiers. The bill has passed the Senate.
With that debate looming, state Rep. John Scott, a Democrat, said he supported Hodges' signing the King bill.
"The governor could have line-item vetoed the Confederacy out of it, but again, would that have been politically expedient at this point?" Scott said. "The answer would be no. The governor recognizes he's still got the flag issue to deal with. If you alienate one group and create obstacles that you don't need down
the road, it doesn't make good political sense."
Hodges signed the bill at Rosewood Elementary School, which planted a sapling taken from a tree at the Brown AME Church in
Selma, Ala. King preached at the church and began his march to Montgomery there.
The Democratic governor said lawmakers "reached out across racial and party lines to forge the compromise that made this day
"Today, the people of South Carolina join together in the spirit of mutual respect," he said.