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A Brief History on Father’s Day

“My father gave me the greatest gift anyone could give a person, he believed in me.” – Jim Valvano

   Where does it begin? Let’s start with a brief history on Father’s Day. Outside religious traditions, in the United States Father’s Day wouldn’t come to be commonly celebrated or officially recognized until early in the 20th century. On July 5, 1908, accounts say Grace Golden Clayton, a resident of Fairmont, West Virginia and member of the church then known as the Williams Memorial Methodist Episcopal Church South, urged her pastor Robert Thomas Webb to hold a sermon in honor of fatherhood and in memory to the 361 men lost, 250 of which were fathers leaving behind thousands of children including Grace herself, during the Monongah Mining Disaster of December 1907. Because of local events taking place, the official observance of Independence Day, and Grace being a reserved and quiet person, the celebration never quite took off and was not replicated for some years.

On June 19 two years later, a celebration was held in Spokane, Washington by Sonora Smart Dodd. Sonora’s father, William Jackson Smart was a civil war veteran and single parent and after hearing a sermon on Jarvis’ Mother’s Day, she felt inspired. A member of the then Old Centenary Presbyterian Church, Sonora suggested to her pastor that fathers and fatherhood too should be similarly celebrated. After some deliberation, the concept was accepted by the church and on the aforementioned June 19, 1910 a sermon was held. The celebration would continue to fade in and out of obscurity with the times. Attempts were made to formally recognize Father’s Day as a national holiday but were ultimately defeated by congress. It wasn’t until finally in 1966 when then President, Lyndon B. Johnson issued the first official proclamation honoring fatherhood in the United States by designating the third Sunday of every June be recognized as Father’s Day. It was later made a permanent holiday and signed into law by President Richard Nixon in 1972.


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