Revolutionary history

Revolutionary history

By Sonia Duggan

For 134 years, men throughout Texas, the United States, and internationally, make up one of the largest nonprofit, nonpartisan societies dedicated to “promoting patriotism, preserving American history, and promoting education to future generations.”

Today, over 40,000 members belong to the National Society of the Sons of the American Revolution (NSSAR). The fraternal and civic organization was founded in 1889 by William Osborne McDowell, a New York City financier, on the 100th anniversary of George Washington’s oath of office.

The goal of this “patriotic and hereditary society” according to, is “to honor and preserve the memory of the Revolutionary War ancestors and events leading to the founding of the U.S.”

Galveston boasts the first chapter in the state, the Bernardo De Galvez chapter formed in 1896, originally organized as a Texas Society of Sons of the American Revolution.

The state has 48 chapters, and North Texas chapters span two districts, TXSSAR District 6, Dallas, Plano and East Fork Trinity, and District 10, McKinney, Denton, Sherman, and Greenville.

Founded in 1985, Plano SAR Chapter #37 has 125 “compatriots” who assemble the first Tuesday of every month at Outback Steakhouse in Plano for dinner and a business meeting.

There are 14 compatriots who serve on the executive board of managers, and appointees serve on any one of six committees: Community Activities, Veterans, Nominating, Finance, Yearbook, and Genealogy.

Plano SAR Chapter President Steven Driever said what he likes best about the SAR is its “many activities that can make its members better people and our communities better places in which to live.”

“Members not only can learn a lot about American history at monthly chapter meetings,” he continued, “but also can help teach American history to high-school classes, participate in essay contests for youth, judge science and history fairs at schools, honor veterans, financially contribute to veterans’ organizations, recognize outstanding community leaders, and maintain a Color Guard to participate in parades and present, retrieve, and retire flags at various ceremonies.”

Members join SAR chapters for a variety of reasons, but Compatriot Bob Johns said it was the SAR Color Guard he observed at the funeral of his wife’s friend, that caught his eye. 

“I thought that was about the coolest thing I’ve ever seen,” Johns said, adding that his wife, Judy Gilreath Johns, is a longtime member of the Daughters of the American Revolution (DAR), the sister organization of SAR formed in 1890. 

Johns said his wife told him, “I didn’t know you’re interested in it. I can get you in. I have all of the records.”

The records were the genealogical proof required for him to join the organization. Men must be lineal descendants of a Revolutionary War patriot or someone who aided in the revolution providing food, money, and supplies. 

If you can prove the lineage on the application form, with documents backing it up, said Johns, then that information is forwarded to the chapter you want to join. 

“Every chapter has a registered genealogist who investigates your paperwork,” he added. “If that gets approved, it goes to the state registrar in Austin. If that’s approved, it goes to our national offices in Louisville, Kentucky, and if national approves it, you’re in.”

In Johns’ case, he said because his wife’s genealogy is “so deep and wide,” he had no problem getting in.

He now serves on the chapter’s executive board as Color Guard Commander and Vice President of Veterans Affairs. 

Johns refers to the Color Guard as the “public face” of SAR, adding “we get a lot of attention and that helps us educate.”

The Plano Chapter’s Color Guard is available to appear at schools, churches, concerts, parades, and other patriotic events. 

“It’s great and the uniforms are kind fun to wear,” he said, referring to the replica Revolutionary War Continental Army uniforms they don for events. 

“There was no one uniform worn at that time, Johns said, “but if you can determine, with factual reference, what the relative you are connected to wore, that could be your very first choice.” 

Johns said most men wear what became the Continental Army official uniform George Washington liked — the red and blue coat and the tricorn hat.

In 2022, the Plano SAR Color Guard Unit participated in 51 events including parades, educational classes in high schools, flag programs at retirement homes, and much more.

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The cities of Plano, Irving and Dallas invite the Plano SAR to their naturalization ceremonies, and Johns said they’ll show up in uniform, carrying the flags. 

When the Color Guard is asked to educate students, Johns said, “We’ll go in our uniforms and carry eight, or 10 flags, and we talk about the American Revolution and the history of it. We talk about patriots and veterans, and we use those flags as demonstrations and a reason to have a conversation.”

In parades like the recent Audie Murphy Day Parade in Farmersville, Johns said, SAR Color Guards from Plano, McKinney, Dallas, Garland, Athens and Fort Worth, rode or walked carrying flags.

“We always carry the Betsy Ross flag, which was the first official national flag of the United States,” he said, along with SAR, U.S. National flag, state of Texas flag, among others, because there were numerous flags flown during the during the Revolution.

“And we have them all,” he said. “We’ve got 30-40 flags.”

Aside from the Color Guard, the chapter has a Speakers Bureau. Compatriots Dan Reed, Howard Taylor, and Mike Radcliff, speak on a variety of topics including Firearms of the Revolutionary War, Barbecue during the Revolutionary War and Valley Forge during the Revolutionary War. 

Compatriot Alan Roach serves as vice president of youth activities and handles Eagle Scout support and recognition, school contests they sponsor, Junior ROTC units in high schools and much more.

In addition to serving as vice president of Veterans Affairs, Johns also serves on the committee responsible for organizing, hosting and supporting veterans’ activities including donating food and clothing to the Bonham VA Health Center and the Texas State Veterans Home. 

“We spend a lot of time and a fair amount of money supporting veterans and their activities,” he said.

There is a chapter officer in charge of medals and awards, said Johns, and because SAR is a commemorative partner with the Department of Defense, the chapters are authorized to distribute eagle lapel pins to Vietnam veterans, often at American Legion ceremonies to thank them for their service. 

The SAR also honors those who lost their lives and fortunes to found and protect the U.S. by cleaning and maintaining graves and marking the graves of American Revolution patriots.

“It’s a big ceremony,” he said of the grave markings that occurred at Bonham and Lancaster. 

“We put a plaque on their tombstone, acknowledging them as veterans,” he said. “That’s one of the main three main goals of SAR — to honor our patriots.”

Additionally, the chapter participates, in conjunction with the John Abston DAR, in the Wreaths Across America ceremony at Pecan Grove Cemetery in McKinney each December to honor those who served our country.

Three years from now, on July 4, 2026, the 250th anniversary of the American Revolution and the establishment of the United States will be officially celebrated. National, state, and local SAR chapters are counting down the days and planning activities to celebrate and commemorate the historic event.  

“We recognize the contributions our Patriot ancestors made to the principles expressed in the Declaration of Independence,” the Sons of the American Revolution proclaimed at a past national Independence Day celebration. “As you celebrate America’s founding may you inspire others to share in the SAR mission.”

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