This year, the days set aside for honoring fathers and flags fell on the same weekend. Flag Day is celebrated on June 14 of every year. Father’s Day the third Sunday of June, fell on June 15 this year, as close as is possible to Flag Day.
This close alignment of seemingly different days provides us with the opportunity to ponder the significance of remembering and honoring fathers and flags, and to contemplate the intersection of the symbol of our nation (the flag) with the person who, without which, we would not be here today (our father).
While the 13-star design became the official flag of the United States on June 14, 1777, Flag Day was not celebrated or designated until much later. In 1885, B. J. Cigrand, a school teacher in Wisconsin, arranged for his students to celebrate the flag’s birthday in honor of the symbol of freedom and justice. As Cigrand continued to champion the cause of celebrating our flag’s birthday, Flag Day celebrations became more popular in the late 1800’s.
President Woodrow Wilson officially established Flag Day via proclamation on May 30, 1916. President Harry Truman signed an Act of Congress designating June 14 of each year as National Flag Day on August 3rd, 1949. Since that time, Flag Day has been recognized as the birthday of our Nation’s symbol, the Flag.
Father’s Day, a modern invention, was first celebrated in 1908 in Fairmont, West Virginia and Spokane, Washington. The West Virginia church service at Williams Memorial Methodist Church Episcopal Church South is believed to have been spurred on by a mine explosion that had killed 361 men, many of them fathers, the prior December. In addition, just two months prior in the nearby community of Grafton, West Virginia mothers had been celebrated.
The Spokane, Washington event, held at the YMCA, was championed by Sonora Smart Dodd, whose father, Civil War Veteran William Jackson Smart, raised his six children as a single parent after his wife died in childbirth. Smart, inspired by the recent Mother’s Day celebration, wanted to honor fathers as well.
In 1924, President Calvin Coolidge recommended Father’s Day be proclaimed a national holiday. More than four decades later, in 1966, President Lyndon B. Johnson did just that. And in 1972, President Richard Nixon signed a law designating the third Sunday in June as Father’s Day.