The Father of Veterans Day
Max C. Floto (Gettysburg 1918) grew up in Connellsville, Pennsylvania, and was the oldest of these three men. Floto and Lybarger were elected officers of the Chess Club in 1916 and also faced each other on the inter-class debating team as sophomore and freshman, respectively. Floto was on the 1917-18 championship debating team. Later, in 1927, and after the chapter became Pennsylvania-Alpha of Theta Kappa Nu, they continued their close association and their support by serving on the chapter’s Alumni Association Board.
Floto graduated in 1918 with a degree in accounting; a year before the other two. He’d also been active in ROTC and was immediately drafted into the U.S. Army in June 1918. “I was a member of the largest band of draftees that ever left Connellsville,” Floto once said. He also remembered that he was one of only three draftees wearing a uniform that day because it had been required by ROTC. The war ended with an armistice, signed on November 11, 1918.
In 1919, Floto made a motion before the Milton L. Bishop Post 301 of the American Legion in Connellsville to make November 11 a holiday and to be known as Armistice Day. The motion passed on September 11, 1919, but Floto wasn’t satisfied to stop with convincing just his hometown. He and another veteran successfully petitioned the first-ever American Legion state convention in Harrisburg, and lobbied the State of Pennsylvania to declare it a legal holiday. It was approved by the legislature on March 31, 1921.
They then moved their petition to the national level. “We had a dozen or so Congressmen working on it,” Floto said in an interview with the (Connellsville) Daily Courier in 1978. A resolution was presented in practically every session of Congress until it was finally passed, and then signed by President Franklin D. Roosevelt on May 13, 1938.
The name was changed to Veterans Day in 1954. Then Congress voted in 1971 to shift the observance to the fourth Monday in October and Floto immediately became part of a committee that battled to have the holiday returned to its original date of significance, Nov. 11. In 1975 they were successful. A Certificate of Appreciation signed by Congressional Rep. Hamilton Fish, Jr., was presented in 1978 to Max Floto and designated him “Father of Armistice Day.”
Max Floto died January 13, 1985.