Back in the 1940s, Raymond Weeks, a Birmingham native, returned home after serving in World War II for the United States Navy. Though he was glad to put the challenges of battle behind him, he felt that he and his fellow veterans needed more acknowledgment for what they’d given the country. For Weeks, this inkling became more than just an idea he shared with his wife and two daughters; he soon assembled a group of Birminghamians who felt the same way. The group went to Washington D.C. and met with General Dwight D. Eisenhower, and the first ever Veterans Parade was launched in 1947, right here in the Magic City.
Because Eisenhower agreed that honoring our nation’s veterans was important, Weeks and the group returned to D.C. four years later, when Eisenhower had taken over the Oval Office. Thanks to their diligence, history was made — the former Armistice Day transformed into Veterans Day, celebrating American veterans of all wars. Raymond Weeks had accomplished his mission.
His daughter, Barbara Weeks Minor, is not surprised when reflecting on this. “He was the type who did not take no for an answer,” she says, smiling broadly. “He would tell someone exactly what he wanted — and he had great leadership skills.”
Barbara and her late sister, Brenda, enjoyed a close relationship with both of their parents — which translated into the closeness that Barbara, her children and grandchildren share today. According to his daughter, it wasn’t just a parade and a federal holiday that Weeks pursued with fervor; it was anything and everything he cared about. “He was a good father,” Barbara declares. “And he was a hard worker!"
As years went by, the annual Veterans Day parades were a chance for the Weeks family to remember the great work of veterans and to take special pride in Birmingham’s role in history. Barbara recalls those days wistfully, including the special pre-parade dinners with guest speakers and other fond memories. In the early 1980s, President Ronald Reagan honored her father — a memory that is now bittersweet. “Mother, Daddy and Brenda and I went to Washington, and President Reagan gave him the Presidential Citizens Medal,” she shares. “Then Mother died the very next month, in December 1982.”
While Barbara does her best to attend the parade each year — missing only a time or two in recent years – she ruefully admits she isn’t much for actually being in the parade. “But one time, I did ride in a Corvette,” she chuckles. “And I rode with this guy who loved his car. We didn’t talk much, and the entire time, I was afraid I was going to mess up something in his car!”
She prefers to let the younger generation carry on the tradition — “my children and grandchildren are still in the parade, and that’s the way it should be,” she points out — and instead, greet the veterans who are loyal to the event. “I love to meet them, and they love to meet me,” she says. “We just talk and talk. I guess some of them are in their 90s now.”
Barbara and her three children — Elizabeth, Kyle and Billy — as well as her grandchildren — Kelsey, Madalyn, Hailey, Hannah, Allison, Christy and Lauren, who has a son, Grayson — are grateful to the folks who maintain and perpetuate Raymond Weeks’ legacy each year for the good of America . . . and for Birmingham.
“It’s a lot to do, and they luckily have a lot of help,” Barbara muses. “I’m so glad that Daddy did what he did. Not many people would have stayed with this, been so determined. Thank goodness he was, and now we have a parade.”
“Mother, Daddy and Brenda and I went to Washington, and President Reagan gave him the Presidential Citizens Medal."
-Barbara Weeks Minor