«RM75»«FC»COL7.MDH - A day to remember that we always forget
Missouri has many state symbols and events. We have the honeybee, Missouri’s official state insect. I especially remember this one because the General Assembly debated and passed it while I was a reporter who, along with about 700 mental health workers, was hanging by a thread waiting for legislative action to save a state hospital and its jobs, build a prison and boost the local economy. Sen. Danny Staples, D-Eminence saved those jobs. He probably voted for the bee, too, if for nothing else but to get to his bill down the calendar.
Then there was the square dance as the official state folk dance. Women in huge, fluffy skirts would pack the halls of the Capitol demanding that one be implemented. It took years; seemed longer to we staffers trying to navigate the crowded hallways through all those huge skirts. Then, of course, we had the bill making the eastern black walnut the official state tree nut of Missouri. That one was sponsored by Sen. John T. Russell, R-Lebanon, a no-nonsense conservative businessman with a soft heart for a grade-school social studies class from his district that made passing the bill their project.
As forgettable as these might be, there is one special day in Missouri that might be the most forgotten of all. It's Missouri Day. It might be telling that the website of the Secretary of State -- the Missouri state official who keeps tabs on all official Missouri state stuff -- devotes, well, a short paragraph to this special day.
Missouri Day dates to March 22, 1915, when the 48th Missouri General Assembly set aside the third Wednesday in October as Missouri Day. Passage is credited to a Missouri native, Mrs. Anna Lee Brosius Korn. Lawmakers in those days met only once every two years and since the Capitol was then under construction, Mrs. Korn would have had to lobby lawmakers in their temporary digs in the Supreme Court Building.
History is silent on her methodology but it is not silent on Mrs. Korn. She had already moved to El Reno, Oklahoma -- in 1891. There, she managed to get the Oklahoma Day established. A woman of civic involvement, she was inducted into the Oklahoma Hall of fame in 1961, four years before her death.
The statute she got passed here can be found in RSMO Section 9.040, which proclaims “Missouri Day” as a day set apart commemorative of Missouri history. It is to be observed by the teachers and pupils of schools with appropriate exercises. I’m guessing jumping jacks, an exercise credited to remarkable Missourian John J. “Black Jack” Pershing – the only guy in American history to get promoted to General of the Armies until Congress did George Washington posthumously years later, wasn’t what they were talking about, even though lawmakers recently voted these the official state exercise.
The statute calls on commercial, political, civic, religious and fraternal organization to devote some part of the day to the “methodical consideration” of the products of the mines, fields and forest of the state, as well as the achievements of the sons and daughters of Missouri in commerce, literature, statesmanship, science and arts.
Lawmakers have toyed with the idea of messing with it. Some wanted to change it to Truman’s birthday, which is May 22, but we already have a Truman Day. It’s well-remembered because state workers get the day off. August 10 might also be appropriate since this is the day President Monroe signed the papers actually making Missouri a state. But, that could lead to a debate over whether it’s MonROW or MONrow, and the last thing Missouree or Missouruh needs is another name to disagree on how to pronounce.
Regardless, Oct. 21 was Missouri Day. Don’t worry if you forgot. Missouri doesn’t really need one day to remember how special it is. We know.
[After a career in journalism, Mark Hughes became a top, non-partisan policy analyst for Missouri government including the state Senate, state Treasurer's Office and the utility-regulating PSC. He has been an observer and analyst of state government since the administration of Gov. Kit Bond.]