1868 – 1881 Joe Cain first took to the streets on Mardi Gras in front of his Lost Cause Minstrel Band to revive the spirit of Mobile following the War and to create a festival for the people, one that anyone could participate in without joining a “mystic.” He led his merry band for some thirteen years and faded from the scene feeling that all was well.
1881 -1942 The free and open concept of footmarching continued on Mardi Gras up until World War II began. Dozens of groups large to small and individual merrymakers costumed and took to the streets to participate in the annual celebration.
1946 – 1966 Following World War II this spirit of the people was again absent, or at least greatly diminished and threatened to eventually die out completely.
On the Sunday after Mardi Gras 1971, a group of concerned individuals met to discuss plans for a more organized group to gather each Mardi Gras Sunday for a procession to the Old Church Street Graveyard where services are held at the gravesite of Joe Cain. The purpose of this group is to promote more interest in the annual pilgrimage to honor the man who revived Mardi Gras in Mobile after the Civil War. At this first meeting in February 1971 officer's were chosen: Al Owen as President or Chairman, Julian Lee Rayford, the event's founder in 1967 , as Vice Chairman and Wayne Dean as Corresponding Secretary.
In 2014 the Joe Cain Marching Society filed paperwork in order to incorporate and gain tax exempt status. This became necessary after so many years because of a movement to put restrictions on the marchers by the Joe Cain Parading Society which represents the float riders.
In an effort to save the traditions of the past 47 processions the Joe Cain Marching Society's purpose is to provide an open atmosphere for citizens of the city and visitors alike, whether individuals, families or groups, to participate freely in the annual Joe Cain Procession “peoples’ procession” with no expectation of having to pay a fee or to join a society and to do so in accordance with the purposes established in 1868 by Joe Cain and as reaffirmed by Julian Lee Rayford in 1967 when he began the “holiday for all the people.