Originally called Decoration Day, from the early tradition of decorating graves with flowers, wreaths and flags, Memorial Day is a day for remembrance of those who have died in service to our country. It was first widely observed on May 30, 1868 to commemorate the sacrifices of Civil War soldiers, by proclamation of Gen. John A. Logan of the Grand Army of the Republic, an organization of former Union sailors and soldiers.
During that first national commemoration, former Union Gen. and sitting Ohio Congressman James Garfield made a speech at Arlington National Cemetery, after which 5,000 participants helped to decorate the graves of the more than 20,000 Union and Confederate soldiers who were buried there.
This event was inspired by local observances of the day that had taken place in several towns throughout America in the three years after the Civil War. In 1873, New York was the first state to designate Memorial Day as a legal holiday. By the late 1800s, many more cities and communities observed Memorial Day, and several states had declared it a legal holiday. After World War I, it became an occasion for honoring those who died in all of America’s wars and was then more widely established as a national holiday throughout the United States.
In 1971, Congress passed the Uniform Monday Holiday Act and established that Memorial Day was to be commemorated on the last Monday of May. Several southern states, however, officially commemorate an additional, separate day for honoring the Confederate war dead, sometimes referred to as a Confederate Memorial Day: January 19 in Texas; third Monday in Jan. in Arkansas; fourth Monday in Apr. in Alabama and Mississippi; April 26 in Florida and Georgia; May 10 in North and South Carolina; last Monday in May in Virginia; and June 3 in Louisiana and Tennessee. Since 1971 the earliest that Memorial Day can be observed is May 25th (as it is this year) and of course the latest is May 31st
Over the years Memorial Day has been said to be the start of the summer vacation season. For weather records the up to 1970 when May 30th was always the day Memorial Day was observed here at Grand Rapids the record high was 92 set in 1918 with 90 seen in 1953, 1937 and 1921. The record coldest maximum was a cold 48 in 1910. There were no other Memorial Days with a high below 60 during that time. From 1971 to 2019 when Memorial Day was moved to the last Monday in May. The warmest was 94 set on May 28th 2018. Highs of 91 have been recorded in 1978 and 2009 (May 29th) 2012 (May 28th) The coldest maximum was a cool 54 in 1983 (May 30th) The coldest low since 1970 on Memorial Day was 35 in 1974 (May27th)
I hope everyone has a nice and safe Memorial Day weekend.