JUNE 19, 17:33 EDT

Father's Day Founder Left Legacy
Associated Press Writer

SPOKANE, Wash. (AP) — Dads getting new ties on Sunday, or just spending the day kicking back, owe a debt to the mother of Father's Day.

Without Sonora Smart Dodd, the third Sunday of each June might be just another day for lawn-mowing and endless to-do lists.

Dodd was just 16 when her own father, Civil War veteran William Jackson Smart, lost his wife in childbirth and was left to raise their six children alone in Spokane.

In 1909, when she was 27, she listened to a Sunday sermon about Mother's Day and wondered why there was no corresponding day for fathers.

Dodd believed the nation didn't show enough respect to fathers, citing popular songs of the day such as ``Father, Dear Father, Come Home with Me Now'' and ``Everybody Works but Father.''

And the sermon set her on a campaign for a Father's Day observance.

Dodd ``was a real promoter and had lots of charm,'' said Don Ball, whose family opened a funeral home with the Dodds in the 1930s that is still in business today. ``She was so well-known around town as a poet, a scribe and a sculptor.''

She promoted Father's Day ``out of love for her father,'' recalled Ball, 72, who knew Dodd from childhood.

Today, about 97 million Father's Day cards are purchased annually in the United States, according to the Greeting Card Association, an industry group. It is the fifth-largest card-sending occasion, following Christmas, Valentine's Day, Mother's Day and Easter.

Dodd's campaign was an uphill struggle at first.

``One group of men conventioneers laughed and said they didn't want a Father's Day,'' according to a 1965 article in The Spokesman-Review. ``A national fishing day would be better, they told her.''

But Dodd persuaded the Spokane Ministerial Association and local YMCA to pass a resolution in support of Father's Day, and the first local observance was held June 19, 1910. Her effort is commemorated on a plaque outside the downtown Y.

The first Father's Day was community-oriented.

``The original Father's Day Association ... and groups of Spokane women prepared home dinners, gathered roses for sacred commemoration and made gifts for shut-in fathers,'' Dodd said in a 1965 speech for dedication of the YMCA plaque.

Her idea spread to other cities, and celebrities including orator William Jennings Bryan joined the campaign for a national observance.

``Both Father's and Mother's days rest substantially upon the same commandment, `Honor thy father and thy mother,''' wrote Bryan, a three-time presidential hopeful, in a 1910 letter to Dodd.

President Woodrow Wilson added his support, and Congress passed a resolution proclaiming a Father's Day in 1914. It became a national holiday when President Richard Nixon signed a declaration in 1972.

Mother's Day first became an official holiday in West Virginia in 1910, though there had been unofficial observances before that. Congress followed in 1914 with a declaration that was signed by President Wilson.

Dodd died in 1978, at the age of 96.

Copyright 1999 Associated Press. All rights reserved.