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Father's Day

Father and newborn holding hands

Father and newborn holding hands

Photo © Sias van Schalkwyk at SXC

Father's Day is a day for children of any age to honor their father. Fathers are very special men, who, along with mothers, share the responsibility for building and maintaining the family unit. Father's Day is celebrated on the third Sunday in June of each year.


On June 5, 1842, William Jackson Smart was born in a small Eastern Arkansas town called Marion which is located near the Mississippi River close to Memphis, Tennessee. Twenty-one years later, in 1863, William joined the fight of the Civil War and became a Union corporal in the United States 1st Arkansas Light Artillery (see NOTE 1 below).1 The division was organized in 1863 to assist the Union's cause by serving at duty stations in Missouri, Arkansas and the Indian Territory.2 During the latter part of the war, the unit was assigned to "garrison duty on the frontier in western Arkansas and Oklahoma."3

[NOTE 1: The United States 1st Arkansas Light Artillery, organized early in 1863 in Fayetteville, Arkansas, fought for the Union side of the war. This unit differs from the 1st Arkansas Light Artillery, organized in September of 1861 in Fort Smith, Arkansas, which fought the Civil War on the Confederate side of the war.4 ]

After the war, he remained in western Arkansas near Fort Smith in a township called Marion which was located in Sebastian County, Arkansas. In 1865, William married Elizabeth L. Harris and had five children with only four surviving infancy. Elizabeth died in 1878. Shortly thereafter, in 1880, William married Ellen Victoria Cheek Billingsley.5 Ellen had been married before and had three children from the previous marriage. After the wedding vows were said, William and Ellen counted eight as the number of children combined through their marriage.6 During their marriage, William and Ellen had an additional six children together bringing the total number of children to fourteen.

One of William's and Ellen's children was Sonora Louis Smart, born on February 18, 1882 in Jenny Lind, Sebastian County, Arkansas. In 1889, when Sonora was 7 years old, William decided to move his entire family across country, via train, to a town near Spokane, Washington, called Wilbur.

Nine years later in 1898, when Sonora was 16 years old, her mother, Ellen died to unknown reasons (see NOTE 2 below). As an older daughter among all her siblings, Sonora assisted her father by caring for her younger brothers. She continuously observed her father and how he spent endless hours caring for and raising all the children while working diligently trying to give them a better life. As Sonora sacrificed part of her life in helping to care for her siblings, she easily understood and admired her father's sacrifice for all the children.

[NOTE 2: Some say it was after the birth of Thomas, her sixth child who was fathered with William (her actual ninth child); however, Thomas was born in 1891.]

On November 4, 1899, Sonora married John Bruce Dodd. At a Mother's Day service celebrated at the Central United Methodist Church in Spokane, Washington, Sonora began thinking about a day to celebrate fathers. As she honored her father so much, she felt that a perfect day for this celebration would be on William's birth date of June 5th.

Sonora's petition to hold Fatherís Day on June 5th, 1910 was submitted too late for the Ministerial Alliance to adjust their sermons. The celebration would be held but the date would be June 19th of 1910. The sermon was "Öpresented by Reverend Dr. Conrad Bluhm at Sonoraís church, Old Centenary Presbyterian Church (now Knox Presbyterian Church)."7

In 1913, congress introduced a bill to establish each first Sunday of June as a day to recognize fathers. Congress voted the bill down. In 1916, President Woodrow Wilson attempted to make Father's Day an official day of celebration by attending and speaking at the Father's Day service in Spokane, Washington. However, Congress turned the bill down once again. President Calvin Coolidge tried in 1924 to nationalize Father's Day but again, the day was not supported by Congress.

In 1966, "President Lyndon Johnson signed a Presidential Proclamation declaring the third Sunday of June as Father's Day."8 President Richard Nixon, in 1972, "established a permanent national observance of Fatherís Day to be held on the 3rd Sunday of June each year."9

Celebrating Father's Day

There are many ways in which to show thankfulness to fathers on Father's Day. Some people purchase clothing for their fathers. Items such as ties, shirts, or favorite sports team memorabilia are given as gifts. Many people cook their fathers a favorite meal along with a favorite dessert. Other ideas include a favorite book, tickets to a sports game or a new tool. However, many fathers are happy without receiving any gifts. Many fathers appreciate just a gathering together of family members and sharing of good times.


Father's Day is a celebration recognizing the importance of fathers within the family unit. Fathers mean so much to family units. Children turn to their fathers for advice, for security, for happiness and for a shoulder to lean on in troubling times. Recognizing fathers for their role in the family unit and what they mean to each family member brings everyone closer together. Father's Day is a celebration of one who gives his life for his family.

When is Father's Day?*

Father's Day falls on the third Sunday in June for many countries. Several countries celebrate the holiday on the first or second Sunday in June, and several countries in the South Pacific including Australia celebrate the holiday in September.

Day Date Year
Sunday June 19 2011
Sunday June 17 2012
Sunday June 16 2013
Sunday June 15 2014
Sunday June 21 2015
* Father's Day does not fall on the third Sunday in June in several countries.

Ideas for Father's Day

Play catch or a board game with Dad.

Take Dad bowling.

Watch one of Dad's favorite movies with him.


1. http://www.civilwarprimer.com/2011/10/a-widowers-legacy/

2. http://arkansastoothpick.com/2007/12/arkansas-civil-war-1st-light-artillery-history/

3. http://historicaldigression.com/tag/william-jackson-smart/

4. http://arkansastoothpick.com/2007/12/arkansas-civil-war-1st-light-artillery-history/

5. http://www.findagrave.com/cgi-bin/fg.cgi?page=gr&GRid=45306602

6. http://historicaldigression.com/tag/william-jackson-smart/

7. http://www.fathersdaybirthplace.com/includes/media/documents/SonoraSmartDodd_Biography.pdf

8. http://www.fathersdaycelebration.com/sonora-louise-smart-dodd.html

9. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sonora_Smart_Dodd