Friday, June 17, 2011

Father's Day

On December 6, 1907, the town of Monongah, West Virginia, was devastated by a mine explosion that killed 362 men and boys[1] thus leaving behind 250 widows and more than 1,000 grieving children. This event prompted Mrs. Grace Golden Clayton to implore her pastor to dedicate a Sunday church service to honor and remember all fathers. On July 5, 1908, the Reverend Robert Thomas Webb of Williams Memorial Methodist Episcopal Church, South, in Fairmont, West Virginia held the first Father’s Day observance in the United States. Mrs. Clayton and the people of Fairmont are not credited with the founding of Father’s Day as they never followed through with a proclamation establishing the annual observance of the day.[2]

While listening to a Mother’s Day sermon in 1909 Sonora Louise Smart Dodd of Spokane, Washington, conceived the idea of a similar celebration to honor fathers. She specifically wanted to honor her own father, William Smart, a widowed Civil War veteran who raised six children on his own. The Spokane Ministerial Association and the local Young Men’s Christian Association (YMCA) supported Dodd and her efforts to establish a day to celebrate fathers. On June 19, 1910 Father’s Day was celebrated in Spokane, Washington.

Throughout the years various United States Presidents offered their support for a Father’s day celebration. In 1966 President Lyndon Johnson signed a proclamation declaring the third Sunday of June as Father’s Day. A permanent national observance of Father’s Day on the third Sunday in June was established by President Richard Nixon in 1972.

[1] United States Department of Labor. Mining Disasters – an Exhibition.
[2] Meighen, D. D., Reverend. Father’s Day.

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