Columbia County recognizes Juneteenth as paid holiday, library gets small grant, CCSO still seeking jailers : KZHE News Blog
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Columbia County recognizes Juneteenth as paid holiday, library gets small grant, CCSO still seeking jailers

by J.D. Bailey on 05/03/22

A new paid holiday has now been added to the Columbia County government calendar.

With unanimous approval Monday by the Columbia County Quorum Court, June 19, otherwise known as Juneteenth, will now be observed annually as a paid county holiday. 

“Beginning in June of 2022, Juneteenth National Independence Day, which falls on June 19 of each year, is hereby declared to be an observed holiday and employee benefit of the county,” said the Columbia County Ordinance passed Monday.

If June 19 ever falls on the weekend, Columbia County government offices will close in recognition of Juneteenth either on the Friday prior to the holiday (if the day occurs on a Saturday), or the following Monday (if the holiday lands on a Sunday). 

The commemorative day was installed as a federal holiday June 17, 2021, after the passage of the Juneteenth National Independence Day Act, and many local governments have followed since the Congressional legislation was approved.

Juneteenth is a widely regarded a symbolic day to celebrate and recognize the end of slavery in the United States. The state of Arkansas has officially observed June 19 as holiday since 2005, but the day was not added to the federal calendar until June 2021.

In Columbia County, Juneteenth has been celebrated for decades. The holiday in Magnolia typically features a parade, a treasure hunt, a festival at South Side Park and more.

With the addition of Juneteenth, Columbia County now observes 13 paid holiday dates every year. These days include the following:

    • New Year’s Day, Jan. 1
    • Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s Birthday, third Monday in January
    • President’s Day, third Monday in February
    • Good Friday, Friday preceding Easter
    • Memorial Day, last Monday in May
    • Juneteenth, June 19
    • Independence Day, July 4
    • Labor Day, first Monday in September
    • Veteran’s Day, Nov. 11
    • Thanksgiving Day and following day, fourth Thursday and Friday in November
    • Christmas Eve, Dec. 24
    • Christmas Day, Dec. 25

The term Juneteenth is a combination of the words “June” and “teen,” to signify the date when some 250,000 slaves were freed in Texas on June 19, 1865.

Many people also associate Juneteenth with the Emancipation Proclamation, which took effect Jan. 1, 1863. The executive decree by U.S. President Abraham Lincoln granted freedom to all enslaved people in the Confederacy, but the document did not widely apply to Southern areas since the rebel states were at war with the United States at the time and had already declared secession from the Union in 1861. According to the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History and Culture (NMAAHC), the actual date of the Juneteenth holiday derives from an event in Galveston Bay, Texas, which occurred more than two years after the Emancipation Proclamation took effect.

“Not everyone in Confederate territory would immediately be free,” said the NMAAHC history of Juneteenth. “Even though the Emancipation Proclamation was made effective in 1863, it could not be implemented in places still under Confederate control.”

On June 19, 1865, a group of 2,000 Union troops, led by U.S. Maj. Gen. Gordon Granger, entered Galveston Bay, Texas, and announced that slavery had been outlawed and that all slaves were to be freed. By that time, the American Civil War had already been over for two months, but since news traveled slow in an era with no rapid communication systems and many slaves in Confederate-held areas did not know of the announcement, the word of freedom was delayed.

“As a result, in the westernmost Confederate state of Texas, enslaved people would not be free until much later (than the Emancipation Proclamation),” the NMAAHC history of Juneteenth added.

Juneteenth can also be linked to the 13th Amendment of the United States Constitution, which was ratified on Dec. 6, 1865. It states: “Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist within the United States, or any place subject to their jurisdiction.”

With Texas’ linkage to the event, The Lone Star State in 1980 was the first state to recognize Juneteenth as an official holiday. Once Texas approved the move, more states were spurred on to recognize June 19 as a holiday. In the following years -- before it gained federal recognition in 2021 -- some 35 states would observe Juneteenth in an official capacity. Since the passage of the federal holiday act last year, virtually all U.S. states now recognize the holiday, and local governments around the country are following suit.

In other Columbia County News: 

- The Columbia County Quorum Court on Monday passed an appropriation ordinance accepting a $1,496 grant for the Columbia County Library. The grant, according to the motion, was issued through the Arkansas Public Libraries grant fund. The award will be used for “information access, institutional capacity, targeted audiences, and enhanced technology,” according to the ordinance.

- The Columbia County Sheriff’s Office is still seeking to hire three male jailers at the Columbia County Detention Center in Magnolia. The vacancies were first reported last month by JP Rick Waller, who chairs the Columbia County Quorum Court’s Jail Committee. The county representative stated Monday that the positions are still open and available.

“We’re still looking, but we can’t find them yet,” he said.

Columbia County Sheriff Mike Loe stated in April that county jailer pay begins at around $32,000 per year. Potential job applicants may call 870-234-5331 for more information on the position.

- The Columbia County Rescue truck responded to six incidents in April. Of those events, three occurred in the city of Magnolia, while three occurred outside the city in the county, according to JP Russell Thomas. The rescue vehicle is staffed by the Magnolia Fire Department.

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