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Source: The New York Times
Date: December 1, 2008
Byline: AP

George Docherty, Pastor Who Influenced Pledge, Dies at 97

ALEXANDRIA, Pa. — The Rev. George M. Docherty, who was credited with helping to push Congress to insert the phrase "under God" into the Pledge of Allegiance, died on Thursday at his home in central Pennsylvania. He was 97.

His wife, Sue Docherty, announced the death, saying Mr. Docherty had been in failing health for about three years.

In 1952, Mr. Docherty, then pastor of the New York Avenue Presbyterian Church in Washington, just blocks from the White House, gave a sermon saying the pledge should acknowledge God. He was born in Glasgow, Scotland, and was unfamiliar with the pledge until he heard it spoken by his 7-year-old son, Garth.

"I didn't know that the Pledge of Allegiance was, and he recited it, 'one nation, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all," ' he recalled in an interview with The Associated Press in 2004. "I came from Scotland, where we said 'God save our gracious queen,' 'God save our gracious king.' Here was the Pledge of Allegiance, and God wasn't in it at all."

There was little effect from that initial sermon, but Mr. Docherty delivered it again on Feb. 7, 1954, after learning that President Dwight D. Eisenhower would be at the church.

The next day, Representative Charles G. Oakman, Republican of Michigan, introduced a bill to add the phrase "under God" to the pledge, and a companion bill was introduced in the Senate. Eisenhower signed the law on Flag Day that year.

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