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William T. Kerr as born in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania on September 15, 1868.  He attended the public schools and at an early age was a fine student and a good speaker.  He became interested in religious, civic, and patriotic activities and took part in them.  He was fascinated by the tales his father, a Civil War veteran, told him about the war. He was only fourteen when he was asked to make a patriotic address at a convention in Chicago on July 4, 1882.  He readily agreed and there delivered his first public address about the flag.  On his return to Pittsburgh, he told the committee, "If we have a day to celebrate our independence, then we should have  a day to honor our country and flag and I'm going to do something about it. "Thus, on July 4, 1882, Billy, as he was called, began his life's work of making June 14th a national holiday. 

He could not know then that this undertaking would bring him in contact with Presidents, Governors, Senators, Representatives and other important persons and thousands of school children.  It took him six years to interest enough people in his idea of making June 14th a national holiday.  By talking to people, conducting small group meetings, meeting with school groups, and writing many letters, he succeeded in creating the American Flag Day Association of Western Pennsylvania, formed in 1888.Mr. Kerr, a noted speaker, established a reputation as a campaigner for patriotic projects.  He spent many hours visiting schools, making speeches and writing letters promoting his dream. William Kerr was a leader in the creation of the National American Flag Day Association, formed in 1898.  He served as president for more than fifty years.  

During his tenure as president of the AFDA, he wrote hundreds of articles, spoke on radio and wrote to presidents urging recognition of June 14th as a national holiday. Flag Week, June 8 to June 14 was celebrated in Pittsburgh by speeches and special programs held in a downtown hall.  The children of Pittsburgh contributed a penny apiece to build a monument to Old Glory in Schenley Park.  This monument to the American Flag is the only one of its kind in the world. Mr. Kerr made many visits to Washington, DC to meet every President from William McKinley to Harry S. Truman asking them for their assistance in making his dream a reality. Inspired by a talk with William Kerr, President Woodrow Wilson issued a proclamation of May 30, 1916:  "I therefore suggest and request that throughout the nation, and if possible, in every community, the 14th of June be observed as Flag Day, this year and in the years to come. While this statement seemed to make the anniversary of the adoption of the flag an unofficial holiday, Mr. Kerr did not stop here in his efforts.  

Several times his life-long dream almost came true as bills were introduced in Congress asking that June 14th be made a legal holiday, but each time Mr. Kerr's hopes were dashed as the bill either did not get out of committee or was defeated. However, in 1949, another bill was introduced in Congress.  Mr. Kerr, in his 80's, his health failing, was delighted to get a letter in July from his friend, Senator Herbert R. O'Connor of Maryland:

"It is gratifying to have your letter and particularly pleasing to me to be able to respond to you even greater progress in regard to the Flag Day Bill.  At our sessions last night, I made the motion in the Senate that your Bill be favorably acted upon and then unanimously passed. In order that the Bill would not have to go back to the House, we adopted the House Bill, as a result of which it will now be sent to the President for his signature. I anticipate no difficulty and am grateful indeed that this has worked out to your entire With kindest regards, I am, Sincerely yours, Herbert R. O'Connor

Following receipt of the letter, came a telegram from the Senator of Pennsylvania, Francis J. Myers: 

"Delighted to inform you Senate last night passed Flag Bill Resolution designating June 14 of each year as Flag Day." Signed FJM 

The fulfillment of his boyhood dream came a month after the letter and telegram arrived.  President Harry S. Truman personally telephoned to invite William T. Kerr to the White House to attend and participate in the signing of Public Law 203 of the 81st Congress.  This historic event occurred on August 3, 1949 and read:

"Resolved by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled, that the 14th day of June of each year is hereby designated as "Flag Day" and the President of the United States is authorized and requested to issue annually a proclamation calling upon the officials of the government to display the flag of the United States on all government buildings on such day, and urging the people to observe the day as the anniversary of the adoption on June 14, 1777, by the Continental Congress of the Stars and Stripes as the official flag of the United States of America." Signed August 3, 1949


After signing the bill, President Truman gave Mr. Kerr the pen he used and graciously invited him into the President's office where they had a leisurely visit, discovering that they had mutual friends.  Upon leaving, Harry Truman remarked, "It is always nice to talk to an honest man." William Kerr received honors from the American Legion, the Veterans of Foreign Wars and many patriotic, civic, educational, religious and services organizations.  A dogwood tree was planted in Valley Forge honoring William T. Kerr by the Valley Forge Historical Society.  Special memorials honoring Mr. Kerr's untiring efforts are in Schenley Park, Pittsburgh, a plaque in the Borough Hall and a plaque and flag pole in front of the library in Yeadon, Pennsylvania.  Special Flag Day ceremonies and a parade are held each year in Yeadon to honor the flag, encourage patriotic and civic pride, and to remember William T. Kerr's valiant and successful campaign. 

A quote from one of the House members who had been interested in Mr. Kerr's work pertaining to Flag Day probably sums it up:

"It is most gratifying that Divine Providence has preserved your life and health so that you can continue to be an inspiration and benediction to millions of patriotic American citizens.  We certainly need great Americans like yourself to bring the gripping story of the rise of this nation and the adoption of its emblem to the young and old of that nation."  
Your friend, John M. Robinson
House of Representatives
State of Kentucky