Fifty years ago, President Dwight D. Eisenhower issued Proclamation 3221 designating May 1, 1958 as Law Day – USA, the first time that Law Day was recognized in the US. The origins of Law Day go back to 1957, when Charles S. Rhyne, President of the American Bar Association (ABA) envisioned a special day to celebrate the American legal system. The idea arose at the height of the Cold War when most countries celebrated May Day or International Workers Day on May 1. Law Day was created to counterbalance these celebrations which were perceived as communist. The issuance of presidential proclamations recognizing Law Day has continued every year since 1958. A complete list of these proclamations with links to the Code of Federal Regulations pages for them is available at the Law Library of Congress page on Law Day.
Brooklyn had a prominent role in the history of Law Day as it was Brooklyn-born Rep. Emmanuel Cellar, Chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, who introduced H. J. Res. 32 which Congress passed as Pub. L. 87-20. Law Day is currently codified in the US Code at 36 U.S.C. §113.
Each year, Law Day events and programs are planned by bar associations throughout the country. This year, the ABA has selected “The Rule of Law” as the theme for the 50th anniversary of Law Day. Today the White House issued a proclamation to recognize “the fundamental role that the rule of law plays in preserving liberty in our Nation and in all free societies”. Interestingly, pursuant to 36 U.S.C. 119, the White House also recognized today, the first Thursday in May, as the National Day of Prayer.