This national holiday is not only needed, you could also say it is Biblical. It is part of the Ten Commandments and the only one with a promise, “Honor your father and your mother, that your days may be long upon the land which the LORD your God is giving you.”
The correlation of paying respect and respecting our parents is in itself a journey. As we learned earlier this year, the origin of Mother’s Day that started in America by Ms. Anna Jarvis, who later spent the rest of her life trying to abolish the holiday she was recognized with founding due to its commercialization.
Father’s Day too was developed by an American. But that is where the similarities abruptly stop.
It is true that Mother’s Day was created by a lady who never had a child and also that a mother created Father’s Day! Many historic events across the country helped in it becoming a holiday. One such event was a memorial service for a mining accident in 1908 remembering a large group of men who were fathers who were killed in 1907, at Monongah, West Virginia.
Those who doubt the effects and abilities of one solitary life need only look to history for a vast supply of those examples of ordinary people who accomplished extraordinary activities by having faith, hope and determination.
Sonora Louise Smart was one of those individuals. She was born in Jenny Lind, Sebastian County, Arkansas, in 1882 to farmer William Jackson Smart and his wife Ellen Victoria Cheek Smart.
When Sonora was 16, her mother died giving birth to her brother, Marshal. Sonora was the only daughter and helped her father in the raising of her younger brothers. They moved a lot and then finally settled down near Spokane, Washington.
Sonora Smart married John Bruce Dodd and had a son, Jack Dodd, born in 1909. While listening to a sermon at church on the newly formed Mother’s Day, she thought about all her father had done for her and her siblings and decided fathers should have a day, too. Sonora Smart held her father in great esteem and approached the Spokane Ministerial Alliance and suggested her father’s birthday of June 5 as a day of honor for all fathers, but they chose the third Sunday of June.
The first Father’s Day was celebrated June 19, 1910, in Spokane, Washington, with the red rose as being the flower of distinction and gradually became popular and accepted by the nation. Even President Woodrow Wilson (who had just designated Mother’s Day) came to Spokane and spoke at Father’s Day services in 1916. Sonora continued to work diligently for the next 50 years and in 1966 President Lyndon B. Johnson signed a presidential proclamation declaring the third Sunday of June as Father’s Day. And finally in 1972, President Richard Nixon established a permanent national observance on the third Sunday as well.
Sonora Dodd died in 1978 at the age of 96. There is a monument recognizing Sonora Smart Dodd as the founder of Father’s Day near the YMCA in Riverfront Park.
I have heard it said that in our now accepted dialect, “Any man can become a father, but it takes a real man to be a dad.”
In my office are two really important plaques. One is from my oldest daughter. It reads, “The greatest gift I ever had came from God ... I call him my Dad.” Another one reads, “Dad ... a son’s first hero, a daughter’s first love.”
Being a good father, just like being a good husband or even a good county mayor, is an awesome responsibility. I am glad that Bradley County is blessed with many examples of those who strive to be an example and also leave a legacy for their family and community. It is yet another reason Bradley County is truly Tennessee at its best.
From my family to yours, have a Happy Father’s Day!