(WFRV) — Did you know that a Marinette County native helped establish Veterans Day 65 years ago?
According to the University of Wisconsin-Madison, alum Harvey Higley helped lead the charge to create a national holiday honoring all veterans.
Higley worked with Congressman Ed Rees of Kansas in 1954 to pass a bill changing the name of Armistice Day – which celebrated the end of World War I – to Veterans Day, a “day dedicated to the cause of world peace.”
A chemical engineer who graduated from UW-Madison in 1915, Higley left private employment and joined the armed forces after the United States declared war on Germany, entering World War I.
Higley served in France and, for the rest of his life, he dedicated himself to caring for his fellow veterans. He served as secretary of veterans affairs under President Dwight Eisenhower.
One of his lasting achievements was establishing Veterans Day.
According to UW-Madison, Higley believed the nation owed its veterans for their sacrifice – “The contract between the government and those men-it has to be paid.”
After serving in World War I, Higley returned to Wisconsin and worked at Ansul Chemical, a Marinette firm that manufactures fire extinguishers. From 1938 to 1948, he served as the company’s president.
Higley served in Eisenhower’s cabinet from 1953 to 1957, guiding policy during the period when the country had more veterans than any other time following both World War II and the Korean War. One of his biggest concerns was seeing that veterans received benefits in education.
“The GI Bill has been of inestimable value to a very large number of veterans,” he said, “and this country has gained materially due to the GI Bill of Rights.”
UW-Madison says Eisenhower was impressed with Higley’s efforts to stand up for the rights of African American veterans.
“I greatly appreciate your report on the success of the Veterans Administration program to eliminate segregation in all VA hospitals and domiciliaries,” he wrote to Higley. “You and all who cooperated with you in this program are to be highly commended.”