How Did Father's Day Become a Holiday?

By Brett Snider, Esq. on June 13, 2014 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

Father's Day is a great day for dads and their children, but how did it become a holiday?

The federal recognition of Father's Day didn't occur until the 1960s, more than 50 years after the country had begun celebrating American mothers through Mother's Day.

So how did Father's Day as a holiday come to be?

1st Celebrated in Spokane, Wash.

The Library of Congress notes that Sonora Dodd of Spokane, Washington, is credited for encouraging the celebration of the first Father's Day in 1910. More than a century ago, Dodd convinced churches in Spokane to honor fathers in the month of June, after she heard a sermon in church on Mother's Day.

Dodd's own father had raised her after her mother's death, and the celebration of Father's Day in June coincided with her father's June birthday.

Presidential Recognition

President Woodrow Wilson had established Mother's Day by presidential proclamation in 1914, and the Library of Congress reports that he also approved of establishing Father's Day in 1916 -- but he never signed an official proclamation.

Almost a decade later, President Calvin Coolidge (of "Keep Cool With Coolidge" fame) also supported a day recognizing "intimate relations between fathers and their children."

But it wasn't until 1966 that President Lyndon B. Johnson declared, by presidential proclamation, the third Sunday in June to be Father's Day. On June 15, 1966, President Johnson declared Father's Day to be a time to "give public and private expression of the love and gratitude" owed to the nation's fathers.

Father's Day Becomes Law

In 1972, President Richard Nixon signed into law a measure creating a permanent recognition of Father's Day by requiring an annual presidential proclamation.

Pursuant to the law, President Barack Obama has proclaimed Father's Day every year during his presidency, and in 2013 he called for "men in every corner of America" to continue to be present in the lives of their children. It may be interesting to note that most U.S. presidents were also fathers; only a handful were not.

So this Sunday, let's remember to thank all the fathers who helped lift us to our current heights. From all of us at FindLaw, have a safe and happy Father's Day!

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