By James A. Surrell M.D.

Father’s Day is Sunday, June 16, 2024.

The first celebration of Father’s Day in the United States was more than 100 years ago, on July 5, 1908, in Fairmont, West Virginia. It remained a local event in West Virginia for a few years.

In 1910, a Father’s Day celebration was held in Spokane, Washington, at the local YMCA. It was hosted by Sonora Smart Dodd, an Arkansas native. Ms. Dodd promoted the Father’s Day celebration in Spokane to honor her father, William Jackson Smart, a Civil War veteran. He was also a single parent, raising six children in Spokane.

As more communities began to celebrate Father’s Day, there was interest in making it a nationally recognized event.

The first bill to accord national recognition of the holiday was introduced in Congress in 1913. In 1916, President Woodrow Wilson went to Spokane to speak in a Father’s Day celebration. Wilson wanted to make it official, but Congress resisted, fearing that it would become too commercialized.

In 1924, President Calvin Coolidge recommended the day be observed by the entire nation, but he stopped short of issuing a national proclamation. Two earlier attempts to formally recognize the holiday had been defeated by Congress.

In 1957, Maine Senator Margaret Chase Smith strongly supported making Father’s Day a national event. She felt it was appropriate to have a Father’s Day celebration in the same manner that Mother’s Day had previously been made a national event. She strongly stated that it made much more sense for our nation to honor both of our parents with an annual celebration.

Subsequently, in 1966, President Lyndon B. Johnson issued the first presidential proclamation honoring fathers, designating the third Sunday in June as Father’s Day.

Six years later, the third Sunday in June was made a permanent national holiday when President Richard Nixon signed it into law in 1972.

Thank you, fathers, for all you do!