The majority of the historical accounts recognize Sonora Dodd of Spokane, Washington as the founder of Father’s Day. The story goes that she got the idea for the holiday while listening to a Mother’s Day Sermon in 1909. At that time she decided that there should be a holiday to honor fathers as well.
Her own father, William Smart, became a single parent when her mother died during the birth of their sixth child. The family lived on a rural farm in Washington on which he was left to bring up all six children. As a tribute to him, Sonora organized the first Father’s Day celebration, during the birth month of her own father, on June 19, 1910.
What a beautiful story, right? Well, I found that Fairmont, West Virginia also lays claim to the first Father’s Day celebration. A woman there, by the name of Grace Clayton, was deeply moved when she heard of a mine explosion that took place in a nearby town in December of 1907. 360 men, 210 who were fathers, were killed.
Having lost her father 17 years before and still missing his presence in her life, she immediately thought of the women and children who were left behind to deal with the aftermath of the accident. She wanted to find a way to celebrate all father’s and so she spoke with her pastor about holding a service to honor and remember all fathers.
The following year, in 1908, she elected to hold the Father’s Day service on her own father’s birthday, July 5, at Williams Memorial Methodist Episcopal Church, South; now known as Central United Methodist Church.
The claims don’t stop there, several other towns have stated that they are the homes of the first Father’s Day celebrations. As I read through various accounts of this town and that. What I found was that, I don’t think it really matters (although I’m sure these towns might disagree).
What does matter is that our fathers are important to us. Whether your father has passed on or is alive and well; whether your relationship is a good one or strained and whether you talk every day or once in a while – the impact your father plays in your life is everlasting and should be acknowledged and honored.
Regardless of who actually held the first Father’s Day celebration, it is fact that President Calvin Coolidge, in 1924, publicly supported the idea of a national Father’s Day. It wasn’t until 1966 that President Lyndon Johnson signed a presidential proclamation declaring the 3rd Sunday of June as the official National Father’s Day. President Richard Nixon then signed the law which finally made it permanent in 1972.
So, this Sunday, June 18th, is marked on the calendar as the day that our country will celebrate as Father’s Day this year. I ask that while you are rushing about to church, family gatherings, cook-outs or any other event, take a minute to really think about your father and what he means to you. Then pick up the phone, keyboard or *gasp* a pen and send a heart-felt message letting him know how much he means to you and thanking him for the sacrifices he made for you through the years.
Happy Father’s Day Dad! I love you!