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Veterans Day Has Roots In Kansas

Emporia shoe salesman Alvin King, left, meets with Congressman Ed Rees and President Dwight D. Eisenhower.

Cities across the country are honoring veterans today with parades, memorials and free dinners. But many Americans may not know how the holiday came about: Its roots are in Emporia, Kansas.

The idea for Veterans Day began through the efforts of Emporia shoe repairman Alvin King. His nephew was serving in the army in Germany during World War II and was killed in 1944. Saddened, King began to wonder how all veterans could be honored.

Emporia Vice Mayor Bobbi Mlynar was a customer of King's. She says he campaigned to change an existing national holiday.

"Armistice Day recognized only the World War I Veterans, and Al thought that all veterans should be honored in this way and make it all-encompassing, and so we have from [the] Spanish American War, Civil War on up to the present," she says.

Congressman Ed Rees of Emporia agreed to take King’s idea to Washington, D.C. The legislation passed, and President Dwight Eisenhower--a native Kansan--signed the bill establishing the nation's first Veterans Day on Nov. 11, 1954.


Carla Eckels is assistant news director and the host of Soulsations. Follow her on Twitter @Eckels.

To contact KMUW News or to send in a news tip, reach us at news@kmuw.org.

Carla Eckels is Director of Organizational Culture at KMUW. She produces and hosts the R&B and gospel show Soulsations and brings stories of race and culture to The Range with the monthly segment In the Mix. Carla was inducted into The Kansas African American Museum's Trailblazers Hall of Fame in 2020 for her work in broadcast/journalism.