By Sharon Frankenberg,
Attorney at Law
Today, being the third Monday in January, we celebrate Martin Luther King Day. It is a legal holiday according to Tennessee law because it is a day “appointed by the governor or by the president of the United States as a day of fasting or thanksgiving, and all days set apart by law for holding county, state, or national elections, throughout this state, are made legal holidays.” Other legal holidays are “January 1; the third Monday in February known as “Washington Day”; the last Monday in May known as Memorial Day” or “Decoration Day”; July 4; the first Monday in September known as “Labor Day”; the second Monday in October known as “Columbus Day”; the fourth Thursday in November known as “Thanksgiving Day”; December 25; and Good Friday.” “The period from noon to midnight of each Saturday which is not a holiday is made a half-holiday, on which holidays and half-holiday all public offices of this state may be closed and business of every character, at the option of the parties in interest of the same, may be suspended.” Tenn. Code Ann. Section 15-1-101. Further, whenever January 1, July 4 or December 25 falls on a Friday, then any corporation, firm or organization shall, on the succeeding Saturday, have the privilege and option to suspend business activities completely or partially and shall not incur any liability for failure to exercise on such a Saturday all of the lawful functions authorized by law.” Tenn. Code Ann. Section 15-1-102. The closing is, of course, not mandatory.
In addition to holidays, state law recognizes “days of special observance.” “Each year it is the duty of the governor of this state to proclaim the following as days of special observance: January 19, “Robert E. Lee Day”; February 12, “Abraham Lincoln Day”; March 3, “Tennessee National Guard Day”; the first full week of March, “Volunteer Firefighters Week”; March 15, “Andrew Jackson Day”; the third full week in March, “Rescue Squad Week”; June 3, “Memorial Day” or “Confederate Decoration Day”; July 13, “Nathan Bedford Forrest Day”; November 11, “Veterans’ Day.” The governor shall invite the people of this state to observe the days in schools, churches, and other suitable places with appropriate ceremonies expressive of the public sentiment befitting the anniversary of such dates.” Tenn. Code Ann. Section 15-2-101. Additional days of special observance codified into Tennessee law are January 30, “Franklin D. Roosevelt Day”; March 10, “Harriet Tubman Day”; March 29, “Vietnam Veterans’ Day”; April 19, “Patriots’ Day”; April 28, “Workers’ Memorial Day”; the second Sunday of May, “Mothers’ Day”; the fourth Saturday of May, “Bluegrass Day”; June 1, “Statehood Day”; the third week of June, “Lymphedema Awareness Week”; June 23, “John Sevier Day”; June 23, “Wilma Rudolph Day”; June 24, “Scottish, Scots-Irish Heritage Day”; August 8, “Emancipation Day” to celebrate the action of Andrew Jackson in freeing his personal slaves on August 8, 1863; the last Sunday in August, “Family Day”; September 17, “Tennessee and United States Constitutions Day”; the week beginning the third Friday of September, “Tennessee P.O.W.-M.I.A. Recognition Day”; the week that includes the third Saturday in September, “Towing and Recovery Week”; the last Sunday in September, “Gold Star Mother’s Day”; the fourth Monday in September, “American Indian Day”; October 9, “Firefighters’ Memorial Day”. Tenn. Code Ann. Sections 15-2-102 through 123. Everyone should be able to find a reason to remember and celebrate.