The creation of the Boys State Program is credited to Hayes Kennedy, who in 1935 was an instructor in the Loyola University School of Law in Chicago and Americanism Chairman of the Illinois Department of the American Legion. Hayes Kennedy became concerned about a project underway in the late 1930’s called “Young Pioneer Camps” promoted by the Nazis to attract high school students. These camps would advocate the virtues of Fascism and Communism and the uselessness of democracy.
The Illinois Department of the American Legion approved Hayes Kennedy’s project, and in June 1935, the very first “Boys State” in the nation was held on the grounds of the Illinois State Fair.
Alabama Boys State began in 1937. Today, the American Legion conducts a “Boys State” program in 49 states. Hawaii is the only state that does not have a Boys State program. District of Columbia delegates attend either the Maryland, Virginia, or DC Boys States.
Purpose of the American Legion Boys State Program
The American Legion believes that the survival of our republic rests on training our youth in the ideals and objectives of American government. Boys State is a unique summer program that does not rely on lectures and textbook scenarios, but hands on experience and participation in a model state government.
Boys State was founded to supplement the curriculum taught in high school civics classes. The program teaches that the preservation of our democracy depends on informed citizens electing responsible officials to administer our government.