You may have heard (and if not, see below) that Birmingham hosts the country’s oldest Veteran’s Day Parade, which actually dates back to 1947. But do you know how that came to be?
You have to begin with Armistice Day, which began being celebrated on November 11, 1919, in commemoration of the end of World War I. Although it had been hoped by many that WWI would be the war to end all wars, that was not to be. Just a little more than a decade after the first one ended, the Big One began. It was after that war ended in 1945 that a Birmingham veteran named Raymond Weeks came up with the idea to expand Armistice Day to celebrate all veterans, not just those who died in World War I.
Weeks had served in the U.S. Navy during World War II, but before that the Georgia native had grown up in Birmingham, where he went to Bush Elementary School, graduating first from Ensley High and then Birmingham-Southern College, according to Bhamwiki.com. He became the founder of the National Veterans Day Volunteer Organization from 1947 until he died in 1985. A granite memorial in his honor has been in the northwest corner of Linn Park since 2007.
Weeks, according to Wikipedia, led a delegation to see future President (then just a General) Dwight Eisenhower, to garner his support. Eisenhower would actually be president when he signed into law, the bill that established the national holiday by renaming Armistice Day, Veteran’s Day in 1954. But even before that Weeks had been leading the charge and the parade to celebrate Veterans Day. In 1982 President Ronald Reagan gave Weeks the Presidential Citizenship Medal, and Elizabeth Dole declared him to be the Father of Veteran’s Day.
Although the traditional celebration takes place on November 11, just as Armistice Day had, Veteran’s Day took a detour into October celebrations from 1971 to 1977 in accord with the Uniform Monday Holiday Act, enacted by Congress in 1968 to create more long weekends for federal employees. Since 1978, Veterans Day has returned to its original date.
The veteran of all Veterans Day Parades will take its traditional place in the streets of Birmingham on Friday, offering an opportunity to be a part of both local and national history while remembering those who served.
The parade route:
START ON 18TH ST. AND 8TH AVE N.
SOUTH ON 18TH ST. TO 5TH AVE N.
EAST ON 5TH AVE N. TO 19TH ST.
SOUTH ON 19TH ST. TO 2ND AVE N.
EAST ON 2ND AVE N. TO 22ND ST.
NORTH ON 22ND ST. TO 6TH AVE N.
WEST ON 6TH AVE N. TO 19TH ST.
NORTH ON 19TH ST. IN FRONT OF CITY HALL
END AT 19TH ST. AND 8TH AVE N.
Birmingham’s Veterans Day Parade starts at Boutwell Municipal Auditorium, 1930 8th Ave N at 1:30 p.m. There are several events on Thursday Nov. 10 and Friday Nov. 11, besides the parade including the Raymond Weeks Memorial Service, the National Veterans Award Reception and the World Peace Luncheon. For a full list of activities and details, visit the official website, nationalveteransday.org/