National Defense Day Drew Big Crowds

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National Defense Day Drew Big Crowds


All morning long on Sept 12, 1924, automobile loads of people from Berea and all sections of Madison County came into Richmond. Large crowds gathered expectantly on Lancaster Avenue, Main Street, First Street and in front of the courthouse. What was going on? It was the National Defense Day celebration. In the changeover to peaceful existence after World War I, Congress passed the National Defense Act in 1920. That law reduced the Army and Navy to a much lower peacetime level. It provided for a slightly stronger National Guard; and some 80,000 men in the organized military reserve units were to serve as a "third line of defense." In an effort to remind the citizens that an organized military structure needs to be quickly built in the event of war, President Coolidge issued a proclamation that Sept. 12, 1924, would be "The Defense Test of the American Nation." Every community was to demonstrate in a great show of patriotism the readiness of the people to immediately join in military mobilization, if called upon. Under the leadership of Capt. D.W. Kennedy, a great parade was planned locally, as well as a program of patriotic speeches and music on the courthouse steps. Major O.F. Hume, M.D., called for 40 young men to enlist in the local National Guard for 24 hours on the day of the celebration. Additional calls went out for 141 men to march with Troop E, 314th Cavalry and 55 with the headquarters detachment of the cavalry unit. At least 200 men were invited to march with an infantry unit. All those who would be "sworn in for a day" gathered at the armory, which was the skating rink on South First Street, the building now occupied by Blue Grass Plumbing. Four military units, the Boy Scouts, the Rotary Club, the Exchange Club, groups of school children, and an unknown number of young men in small groups who had come from various villages in the county all marched to the music of the American Legion band. For the occasion, members of the Exchange Club wore white hats with their organization's emblem. To the continual cheers of hundreds of proud and excited citizens, they marched up Main Street, which was lined on both sides by large 5-foot American flags. Up Lancaster Avenue they marched, then through the grounds of the normal school, and then back down Second Street, viewed all the way by excited children, residents, and normal school students waving small flags. At the courthouse the large crowd overflowed the lawn and spilled out into the surrounding streets. Exhibiting an unusual sense of unity and pride, they continually responded with loud applause and cheers to the speakers and the music of the American Legion Band. "Never was such a patriotic display made in the history of Richmond," the newspaper editor exclaimed.


Dr. Robert Grise




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Dr. Robert Grise, “National Defense Day Drew Big Crowds,” Madison's Heritage Online, accessed May 19, 2024,