The History of Father’s Day


Sam Johnson

Samuel H. Johnson (1932-2009)

Tomorrow is Father’s Day 2009.  This will be my first Father’s Day without my father, who passed away earlier this year in February.  For some reason I wanted to know about the history of Father’s Day.  I grew up believing that Father’s Day was invented by the greeting card companies.  I conducted some research and learned that the first Father’s Day was observed on June 19, 1910 in Spokane, WA, when Mrs. John B. Dodd first proposed the idea of a “Father’s Day” a year earlier.  At that time there were no Father’s Day cards.

Mrs. Dodd wanted a special day to honor her father, William Smart, a Civil War veteran, was widowed when his wife (Mrs. Dodd’s mother) died in childbirth with their sixth child. Mr. Smart was left to raise the newborn and his other five children by himself.  It was after Mrs. Dodd became an adult that she reflected and appreciated how strong and giving her father was when it came to raising his children as a single parent.

At about the same time in various towns and cities across American other people were beginning to celebrate a “Father’s Day.”  In 1924, President Calvin Coolidge supported the idea of a national Father’s Day.  In 1966, President Lyndon Johnson signed a presidential proclamation declaring the 3rd Sunday of June as Father’s Day.

Over the decades Father’s Day has become a day to not only honor your father, but all men who act as a father figure including stepfathers, uncles, grandfathers, and adult male friends.

If you were fortunate like me to have a good relationship with your father or any man that positively influenced your life, celebrate them and their memory.  Find a way that is meaningful and personal for you.

My father, Samuel H. Johnson, lived a full life.  Despite his unbelievably tragic upbringing and not having a father in his life, he managed to be a wonderful father.  As a young adult, he had men in his life who taught him how to be respectful and trusting of others, when he lived in a world where very few people could be trusted.

Somehow my Dad managed to make his children feel safe and loved in a world that did not provide those things to him.  He had a lot of help from my mother, but my focus is on Dad today.  Toward the end of his life, I have some very powerful and treasured memories of my father.  We spent a lot of quality time together during the last year of his life.  We laughed and shared a few heart-felt moments that help me put life in perspective.

If your father is living and you have a relationship with him, don’t take it lightly.  In your own special way, try to make every day “Father’s Day.”  Respecting, loving, forgiving and appreciating you father is no easy task, but it is worth it in the end.

I miss my Dad.  A few days before he passed away, my Dad told me there would be aspects of my life that would change when he passed.  In short, he warned that I would have some difficult days in front of me.  My life was pretty good.  I didn’t understand what he was talking about then, but here I am four months after his death and I’m beginning to understand what he was trying to tell me, which makes me appreciate him more.

Watching my Dad’s health decline to a point where he depended upon others to do for him was tough.  In helping to care for him, I believe I was setting the best example for his prize possessions—his two grandsons.  My sons had a front row seat for what it takes to care for a loved one in who can’t care for themselves.  You must be patient, caring and have a heart-felt desire to give the patient the best quality of life.

My father was a good man who overcame obstacles in life that would have ruined most people.  I promised my father that I would follow in his footsteps and be a father to my sons that he was to me.

So on this day, and every day, I remember my Dad.  To all the men who have stepped up to the plate and handled their business and other people’s business when it comes to fatherhood–Happy Father’s Day!

Gary Johnson is the Founder & Publisher of Black Men In America.com a popular online magazine on the Internet and the Black Men In America.com Blog. Gary is also the author of the new book“25 Things That Really Matter In Life.”

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