The Knights of Columbus initiated a campaign in 1951 to lobby for the public adoption of the phrase “under God” in the U.S. Pledge of Allegiance. The Order’s Board of Directors had amended the pledge’s recitation at Fourth Degree assembly meetings and encouraged congressional representatives to adopt the same language nationwide. On June 14, 1954, Flag Day, President Dwight D. Eisenhower signs a law that adds the words “under God” to the U.S. Pledge of Allegiance, completing an effort that Knights began three years earlier.
In the picture, U.S. Rep Louis Rabaut (D-Mich) presents a scroll with the words “under God” to KofC Michigan State Deputy Walter Graveline. At the urging of KofC, Rep. Rabaut presented a resolution to Congress to amend the Pledge of Allegiance with the words “under God”.
1926: Supreme Knight Flaherty, Deputy Supreme Knight Martin H. Carmody and other officers meet with President Calvin Coolidge about the persecution of the Catholic Church in Mexico. The Order launches a $1 million educational campaign to influence American public opinion on the need for a strong stand against the Mexican government’s attacks on the Church. It takes more than 10 years for the tensions to ease.
When the United States enters World War I, Supreme Knight Flaherty writes President Woodrow Wilson telling him that the Order plans to establish centers to provide for the troops’ “recreational and spiritual comfort.” The Knights’ services, he says, will be offered “regardless of creed.”
Everybody meant everybody. Whatever your race or creed, you were welcome at K of C facilities. In fact, the Order was praised by a contemporary African American historian of World War I, because “unlike the other social welfare organizations operating in the war, it never drew the color line.”
As a result of the Order’s wartime work, which earned high praise from Pope Benedict XV, nearly 400,000 men joined the Knights between 1917 and 1923.
By the summer of 1917, the Order opens service centers, or “K of C Huts,” in training camps and behind the lines of battle. The Knights and independent fund drives raise nearly $30 million to finance the huts.
In this picture dated in 1917, soldiers, officers and camp activity workers at Camp Wheeler in Georgia form the words “K of C.”
As membership in the Knights of Columbus grew, the Order became increasingly known as a force for public good. Following the dedication ceremony for the Christopher Columbus Memorial Fountain in Washington, D.C., in 1912, a reporter for The Washington Star noted that the large number of Knights in attendance “marked anew the important position of the Knights of Columbus as an order in the social fabric of the United States.”
In response to growing anti-Catholic hostility and the rise of socialism, two Knights, David Goldstein and Peter W. Collins, embarked on an extensive, 27,000-mile lecture tour throughout North America in 1914.
Tens of thousands of copies of a “bogus oath” are circulated to defame the Knights of Columbus. The Knights, in turn, lay the groundwork for a lecture series and educational programs to combat anti-Catholic hostility. Between 1914 and 1917, the number of anti-Catholic publications drops from 60 to fewer than five.
The Knights expanded to college campuses in the early-20th century. In 1904, more than 10,000 Knights and their families attended ceremonies at The Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C., in which the Order presented the school with a grant for more than $55,000. The funds, used to establish a K of C chair of American history, began a long history of support for CUA. From 1909 to 1913, Knights raise $500,000 to establish a permanent endowment for CUA.
In addition, students at the University of Notre Dame in Indiana soon organized their own K of C council. Chartered in 1910, Notre Dame Council 1477 was the Order’s first college council, launching a subset of the Knights that today includes councils at 244 schools worldwide.