GUEST VIEW: (Founding) Fathers of Texas

By U.S. Sen. John Cornyn

As we leave the flowers of May behind, summer fun and Father’s Day lie ahead. In the Lone Star State, this day gives us an opportunity to honor our fathers and the legacy of some of those who laid the groundwork for Texas’ rich history.

While the history of Father’s Day didn’t start in Texas, a Texan in the White House helped ensure it would continue. The first Father’s Day originated thanks to Sonora Dodd, the daughter of a Civil War veteran from Washington state, whose father raised her and her five siblings after their mother died in childbirth. Thinking of her father’s many sacrifices, she circulated a petition around town and on June 19, 1910, Protestant churches in Spokane observed the first Father’s Day, the same month as her father’s birthday.

Over the next few years, Father’s Day gained widespread support. In 1916, President Woodrow Wilson honored Father’s Day from the White House. Then, President Calvin Coolidge urged state governments to observe it, and during World War II, supporters celebrated Father’s Day to honor American troops and support dads in the war. However, it wasn’t until the 1960s that our fellow Texan, President Lyndon B. Johnson, proclaimed the third Sunday of June as Father’s Day. President Nixon finally made it official with a resolution in 1972.

In Texas, Father’s Day also gives us the chance to remember Stephen F. Austin, widely known as the “Father of Texas.” Austin was instrumental in the colonization of Texas and helped bring more than 1,500 families to the region, which was then part of Mexico. Famed for his impressive negotiating skills, Austin recruited settlers from all across the United States and lobbied heavily to boost the farming industry, strengthen the economy, and establish competitive markets within the Mexican territory.

Austin’s leadership and dedication to these settlers served as a beacon of hope for many who supported becoming independent from Mexico, which ultimately led to him joining the revolution and becoming the first commander of the Texas Volunteer Army. Although Austin did not live to see his dream become a reality for the Republic of Texas, his legacy continues to inspire the pioneering fathers of Texas today.

Other founding fathers of Texas include Sam Houston, who led the Texian army to victory at the Battle of San Jacinto, James Bowie, who famously helped defend the Alamo, and William B. Travis, whose impassioned letter for reinforcements became a rallying cry for the Texian cause. These heroes and others helped secure Texas’ independence from Mexico and will forever be revered in history.

The legacy of Texas’ founding fathers reminds us of the trailblazing spirits of our dads today, who strive to protect and provide for their families and chart a path of adventure and hope for their kids’ futures. As we celebrate Father’s Day in 2024, we recognize the profound impact of both our own fathers and the historical figures who came before them and take time to show them the heartfelt appreciation and love they deserve.

Senator John Cornyn, a Republican from Texas, is a member of the Senate Finance, Intelligence, and Judiciary Committees.