My Great great Uncle Louis A. Bowman
Category: Life

An exerpt from Chapter Eight:
"Under God" and Other Questions About the Pledge

From The Pledge Of Allegiance, A Revised History and Analysis, 2007
by Dr. John W. Baer.

Copyrighted 2007 by John W. Baer.

The following in an exerpt from Chapter Eight: "Under God" and Other Questions About the Pledge

Leaders in the Movement to Add "Under God" to the Pledge, 1948 to 1954

In a 1955 Affidavit before a Notary Public of Cook County, Illinois, Louis A. Bowman (1872-1959) officially claimed to be the first person to initiate the practice of reciting "under God" in the Pledge. He was a member of the Board of Governors of the Illinois Society of the Sons of the American Revolution and served as its Chaplin. He lived in Oak Park-a suburb of Chicago.
On Lincoln’s Birthday, February 12, 1948, at a meeting of the lllinois Society of the Sons of the American Revolution, he lead them in repeating the Pledge with the added two words, "under God," after "one nation." The National Society of Daughters of the American Revolution and its Chicago Chapter gave him an Award of Merit as the originator of this idea.
Bowman explained to the Society that in adding the words, "under God," they were following the precedent established by Abraham Lincoln in his Gettysburg Address. At the end of this Address, Lincoln said, "this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom-and that, government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth." (Lincoln inserted the words, "under God," extemporaneously, for they do not appear in his written draft.)
Bowman also repeated this revised Pledge at several other meetings of the Society. At one 1952 meeting of his SAR, a member, John F. McKillip, was inspired to write to his former employer and editor-in-chief of the Hearst Newpapers, William R. Hearst, Jr., about this new change. The Hearst Newspapers began a campaign that eventually helped result in the "under God" legislation, which was adopted by the US House and Senate, in 1954, and signed by President Eisenhower on Flag Day, 1954.
Bowman repeated his revised Pledge on other occasions, as a guest speaker, at a Chicago post of the American Legion in 1952 and at a YMCA dedication in 1953. Meanwhile, in April 1951, the Knights of Columbus began a campaign for the Pledge to be amended by Congress to include the words, "under God." The Hearst Newspapers and the American Legion joined this campaign.
In this successful campaign, the Knights of Columbus worked closely with Representative Louis Rabout-a democratic congressman from the Detroit area. He was a long-time member of the House Appropriations Committee. He was a devout Roman Catholic. One of his sons became a Jesuit priest and two of his daughters became Catholic nuns.
The Knights of Columbus was founded in 1882, by Father Michael McGivney, in New Haven, Connecticut. (He probably will be canonized as a Roman Catholic saint in the next 10 or 20 years.) Father McGivney founded the Knights of Columbus, as a fraternal order for Roman Catholic men. It provided family insurance and meeting halls around the nation for its members.
In 1900, the Fourth Degree of the Knights of Columbus was formed. This "higher order" was founded to do good works, help the Roman Catholic Church, and to promote American patriotism. The Knights of Columbus has worked closely with the Holy See in the Vatican over the last century.
In the 1950s, the Fourth Degree believed that a patriotic American should be a person of religious faith and one who
opposed communism, socialism, secularism, deism, agnosticism, and atheism. In the 1950s, the Knights opposed communism in eastern Europe, Latin America, and Vietnam. It supported Senator Joseph McCarthy is his early campaign against communist subversion in the United States. Senator McCarthy was a member of the Knights.
In April 1951, its Board of Directors adopted a resolution mandating that "under God" be added in the recitation of the Pledge by each of the 750 Fourth Degree assemblies. In 1952, its Supreme Council passed a resolution, urging Congress to add the words, "under God," to the Pledge.
Many other groups joined in the campaign. One was the Washington Pilgrimage group (now known as the Religious
Heritage of America group)-a patriotic-religious group founded in 1951-began promoting this addition. In 1952, the Reverend Dr. George M. Docherty, pastor of the New York Avenue Presbyterian Church in Washington, DC, preached in favor of adding "under God" to the Pledge. His point was that a Soviet atheist could easily recite the Pledge without compunction by substituting the "Union of the Soviet Socialist Republics" for the "United States."
In 1953, Rep. Louis Rabaut from Michigan received a letter from H. Joseph Mahoney, Brooklyn, NY, suggesting this addition. Rabaut’s 1953 House Bill eventually was passed. Senator Homer Ferguson of Michigan filed a Senate Bill that was passed by Congress. President Eisenhower signed the Bill on Flag Day, June 14, 1954. (President Eisenhower was baptized in the Presbyterian Church in Washington in 1953.)
In 1955, Rabout arranged for Congress to publish and distribute over 100,000 copies of a musical version of the Pledge. The music and lyrics were written by Irving Caesar, a union leader and a friend of George Gershwin. Gershwin and Caesar wrote the music and lyrics for Swanee, made famous by Al Jolson.

Do you have questions or comments?
Please contact:

Dr. John Baer
10 Taney Ave.
Annapolis, MD 21401
(410) 268 – 1743


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