President Lyndon Johnson officially declared Waterloo, New York, the birthplace of Memorial Day in May 1966. However, the origins of the day are not quite so clear.
On May 5, 1868 General John Logan, national commander of the Grand Army of the Republic, officially declared Memorial Day. It was first observed later that month on May 30th when the graves of Union and Confederate soldiers were decorated at Arlington National Cemetery.
The reason why President Johnson declared Waterloo, New York as the birthplace of Memorial Day was because it was the first state to officially recognize the holiday in 1873. The Southern states that seceded to start the Civil War refused to acknowledge the holiday until after World War I. That was because until that point the holiday honored only those who fought and died in the Civil War.
In 1971 Congress put into law that the holiday would be celebrated on the last Monday in May. This was done in order to ensure a three-day weekend holiday.
While it was a tradition in the past for many cities to hold Memorial Day parades, today the number of those parades are dwindling. It is important to remember that on Memorial Day, we honor those who died serving our country and protecting our freedoms.