Glynn Moore

News editor and local columnist for The Augusta Chronicle.

Fans of first president have several days they can celebrate

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George Washington's birthday is being observed today, Feb. 21, though the history books say he was born Feb. 22, 1732. Actually, Washington was born on a different day and year, but we'll get back to that later.

One of the thoroughfares many of us take every day is Washington Road. It apparently wasn't named for George Washington, though, but for the city of Washington, Ga., because it used to be the main road between there and here.

Washington the city was named for the Father of Our Country, however, and is said to be the first city to bear the name of our first president. Washington the man visited Augusta way back in 1791, but I'm not sure what the main drag was called at the time.

Washington is just one of many people whose names show up on our roads and highways. On my drive home each night, for instance, there is one stretch that bears all of these signs:

  • The Hon. Jack Connell River Watch Parkway: designated to honor a state representative who helped push the project through the House
  • William L. Billy Powell Jr. Bridge: over the Augusta Canal, it was named for a man who worked for the state Department of Transportation for many years
  • Tom Allgood Interchange: a section of River Watch and Interstate 20 named for a longtime state senator
  • Carl Sanders Highway: the segment of I-20 from Augusta to Madison, Ga., named for a former governor and Augusta native.

That interstate crosses Bobby Jones Expressway, which honors a giant in golf, not politics, and if you drive around you'll find many more roads bearing famous names. There's just about everything except Della Street and Lois Lane, and I'm not sure about those two.

Now, back to George Washington. It seems he was actually born Feb. 11, 1731, and he was close to 20 years old when his birthday changed to Feb. 22, 1732. How?

According to the National Archives' Web site, Washington was born while England and the Colonies were still hanging the old Julian calendar on the wall. In 1752, however, we adopted the Gregorian calendar, which was designed to make up for lost time -- literally -- in a millennia-old system.

One thing it did was move the beginning of the year from March to Jan. 1. The new calendar, which was already adopted in much of Europe, added 11 days to account for time lost over the centuries, and it made Jan. 1 the first day of the year to reflect actual traditions. Washington, like everyone around him, suddenly had to reschedule his birthday parties.

The third Monday of February has been declared a federal holiday -- though if you look at the calendar a minute, you'll see that Feb. 22 can never fall on the third Monday. By the way, today really does honor Washington and is not officially known as "Presidents Day."

No matter. We'll still take time today to wish you a happy birthday, Mr. President, no matter what your driver's license might say.


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