May Day - Law Day Connection
Tue May 1, 2007 17:53
 

 
May Day - Law Day Connection

JoanShear | 04 May, 2006 15:56

Question:
I found myself wondering about the coincidence that Law Day and May Day are the same day and maybe this is not a coincidence. How can I find out which came first and if there is a connection between the two?

Answer:
A general reference source, in this case, the Columbia Encyclopedia, provided the following information on May Day:
The celebration of May Day probably originated in the spring fertility festivals of India and Egypt. The festival of the Roman goddess of spring, Flora, was celebrated from April 28 to May 3. In Medieval England the chief feature of the celebration of May Day was the Maypole; this was decorated with flowers and streamers, the loose ends of which were held by dancers, weaving intricate patterns as they passed each other in the dance. The Second Socialist International in 1889 designated May Day as the holiday for labor, and since that time it has been the occasion for demonstration, parades, and speeches among socialists and communists.

Seeking general information on Law Day led to the following from Black’s Law Dictionary, 8th Ed,: A day on which American schools, public assemblies, and courts draw attention to the importance of law in modern society. Since 1958, the ABA has sponsored Law Day on May 1 of each year.

So we now know which came first, but we don’t know if it is a connection or a coincidence.

Oddly enough Black's did not reference the U.S. Code citation for Law Day, but our "Every Day is a Holiday" exhibit contained that cite for us, Law Day, U.S.A., 36 U.S.C. 113 (2000). The U.S. Code sections concerning Patriotic and National Observances were revised in 1998. Prior to that there were two separate holidays on May 1 - Law Day, U.S.A. [36 U.S.C. 164 (1994)] and Loyalty Day [36 U.S.C. 162 (1994)]. The prior Law Day, U.S.A. seems to date back to 1961, but the legislative history just mentions the ABA has sponsored Law Day since 1958 and gives no indication why. The following seems to indicate that Law Day may have been, at least in part, a reaction to Sputnik.

Reports of the American Bar Association, 1958
Proceedings of the House of Delegate February 24-25, 1958
First Session, Monday Morning, February 24
Report of the President. Charles S. Rhyne of Washington, D.C.

President Rhyne then spoke at length about the proposed "Law Day, U.S.A." observance. After eliciting the cooperation of the Attorney General, William Rogers, and the approval of President Eisenhower (who proclaimed May 1 the official Law Day), plans went forward for observances throughout the county. He stressed the significance of choosing May as the date for this occasion as a foil for the traditional Communist celebrations on that date. No matter what other type of great things they may have produced, he said, " . . they can't say that they have produced, the freedom under law which is the great idea and ideal that our country has to offer the world.

"He went on the emphasize our American ideal, and the responsibility of the lawyer to the American people in a time of turmoil and uncertainty, with the space age upon us, and leadership the one thing which can produce order out of this relative chaos.

After urging all those present to do everything possible to help with the observance itself, and further to help in educating the public about the law and what it means, he concluded by saying: '...I strongly believe that in a strong legal profession lies the liberty of the people of the United States, and in the liberty of our people lies the hope of the whole world."

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