History of the Atlanta St. Patrick’s Parade

Since the first St. Patrick’s Day parade in 1858, the City of Atlanta has supported the Hibernian Benevolent Society St. Patrick’s Day Parade in memory of the heroic efforts of Father Thomas O’Reilly and of the Hibernian Rifles.  Oakland Cemetery contains a plot dedicated to the Hibernian Rifles in gratitude for their service to the city. HBSA members can still be buried there today.

The Atlanta Constitution, in 1893, told of an eventful St. Patrick’s Day parade with a full-page account of the festivities.  The article read as follows: “Three hundred Irishmen from the Hibernian Benevolent Society along with the Ancient Order of Hibernians, and the Catholic Knights of Atlanta, marching to the music of the Fourth Artillery band filed into the Catholic Church for Mass, at which Father Clifford preached on the life and work of St. Patrick. Upon the conclusion of Mass, the societies paraded to the Opera House on Marietta Street to celebrate.”

For the next century, the Parade continued to be a small, but dependable annual Atlanta tradition, skipping only the years during the First and Second World Wars.

In 1999 Monsignor E.J. Dillon approached then-HBSA President and Parade Chairman Matt Naughton and suggested that a larger parade with more participation might be had if a “coalition” of Irish groups could be formed to plan and implement the parade. This was the beginning of the “Parade Committee”.

Since that time, the parade has grown under the leadership of Atlanta St. Patrick’s Parade, Inc. (“The Parade Committee”).  To this day, members of the Hibernian Benevolent Society, the Ancient Order of Hibernians (AOH), Clan Na NGael, Fire Emerald Society of Metro Atlanta (FESMA), the Irish Information Center and the Metro Atlanta Police Emerald Society (MAPES) are all actively involved in the Parade as participants, sponsors and often as members of the Parade Committee.