Historical Highlights

Father’s Day Becomes A National Holiday

April 24, 1972
Father’s Day Becomes A National Holiday Collection of the U.S. House of Representatives
About this object
An 11-term Member from Washington State, Walt Horan served in the First World War and worked as a fruit distributor before being elected to Congress in 1942.
On this date, President Richard M. Nixon signed P.L. 92-278, designating the third Sunday in June as “Father’s Day.” Representative Andrew Jacobs, Jr., of Indiana introduced the legislation (H.J. Res. 687) on June 7, 1971. Although Jacobs sponsored the final bill, Walt Horan of Washington introduced earlier resolutions during his House service. In a 1961 House Floor speech, Horan described how his Spokane, Washington, constituent, Sonora Dodd, initiated the holiday in her hometown. In the spring of 1910, Dodd presented a petition to a ministerial association in Spokane to celebrate Father’s Day on June 5 (the birthday of her father, a widower who raised her and her five siblings). The association approved the suggestion, but could not schedule the holiday until the third Sunday of June. From the first Father’s Day in 1910, the movement spread across the country. Americans fêted fathers in an informal fashion, but Horan noted that while Father’s Day “has gained nationwide observance . . . it has never been given the official recognition of Congress.” Despite the efforts of the Father’s Day Association and support over the years from political luminaries such as former Representative William Jennings Bryan of Nebraska, President Woodrow Wilson, and President Calvin Coolidge the holiday never received the legislative status of its counterpart, Mother’s Day. Representative Horan stated, “In our present age of complex scientific activities, such as sending a man, or perhaps I should say a father, into outer space, it is indeed refreshing to take time to grant simple official recognition to our American fathers.” While Horan passed away five years later in 1966, Dodd lived to see the petition she championed to honor her father become law on the 62nd anniversary of the first Father’s Day celebration.

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