This article originally appeared in The Inquirer on June 12, 1988.
Lee Burleson has been planning Flag Day celebrations for 32 years in Yeadon, but he has yet to see a parade go through the town.
“I have to be at the starting point, getting everybody in line. You get to see everybody, but it’s not the same,” Burleson said.
Flag Day, which will be celebrated Tuesday, is important to Burleson and other Yeadon residents because of William T. Kerr, founder of the day, who lived in the borough before his death in 1953.
According to Joseph Kerr, his father began a campaign in 1882 to have June 14 proclaimed a national holiday in honor of Old Glory. Joseph Kerr said that his father gave a speech about the flag that year at a political convention in Chicago.
“On his way back to Pittsburgh, where he lived then, Dad told people that if there was a day to honor our independence, there should be a day to honor the flag,” Joseph Kerr said. He said that his father picked June 14 because it was on that day in 1777 that the Stars and Stripes was chosen as the new nation’s flag.
William Kerr realized part of his dream in 1949 when President Harry S. Truman signed Public Law 203 of the 81st Congress, a law that authorizes and requests that each year the President issue a proclamation setting aside the day for governments and citizens to honor the flag.
“Dad was a natural public speaker,” said Joseph Kerr, who is in his 80s. ''He never had any lessons, but he would help politicians and others learn how to speak."
As the years went by, Joseph Kerr said, his father kept alive the notion of a legal holiday to honor the flag, even as he studied law, was admitted to the state bar, married and started a family. When he moved from Pittsburgh to Yeadon in 1928, he also moved the headquarters of the American Flag Day Association to the borough of Yeadon.
Joseph Kerr said that he joined the association when he was 12 years old, and he learned to love of the flag: “I guess with someone who could speak as well as my father, his feelings were bound to have an effect.”
Although he has not lived in Yeadon since 1970, Joseph Kerr has remained involved in the Yeadon Flag Day Association and is its president. Last Tuesday, Kerr led the last meeting before the celebration, insisting first that the group start by reciting the Pledge of Allegiance to the Flag.
Barring rain, the association was scheduled to hold its annual parade yesterday. Burleson said that since the Bicentennial in 1976, the celebration has grown to include a fireworks display in the evening, after a festival of games and booths at the William T. Kerr Memorial Field during the afternoon.
Burleson and others who work all year on the parade say they do so because they are proud that Yeadon was once the home to the founder of Flag Day.