Herbert Hoover and Boys’ Clubs of America

Herbert Hoover and members of the Boys' Club of America, ca. 1956
Herbert Hoover and members of the Boys’ Clubs of America, ca. 1956

Herbert Hoover’s favorite philanthropic endeavor was promoting the Boys’ Clubs of America.  He gave this his usual full-bore effort.  Hoover embraced the Boys’ Clubs of America mission ‘to enable all young people, especially those who need us most, to reach their full potential as productive, caring and responsible citizens.’

The Boys’ Clubs of America trace their origin to a group organized by three Hartford, Connecticut women in the 1860s.  After decades of slow growth, the Federated Boys Clubs of Boston embarked on a nationwide organizing drive in 1906 to expand the reach of the clubs.  This was successful and there were more than 200 clubs when the Federated Boys Clubs changed their name to Boys’ Clubs of America in 1931.

When Hoover became the Chairman of the Boys’ Clubs of America in 1936, there were nearly 300 clubs in 150 cities and towns.  Ever the builder, Hoover set out to double these numbers.  As an orphan Hoover appreciated the good work done by these clubs in preventing ‘pavement boys’ from becoming juvenile delinquents.  Hoover had been Chairman for twenty years when the Boys’ Clubs of America was granted a Congressional Charter in 1956.

As Chairman, Hoover spoke to the Boys’ Clubs board nearly every year from 1936 through 1960.  He would report on the growth in the number of clubs, increased financial support, and—most importantly—on the number of boys reached.  By 1960, the Boys’ Clubs of America had more than 600 clubs in over 300 cities serving 600,000 boys.

In 1990, the Boys’ Clubs of America officially changed their name to the Boys’ and Girls’ Clubs of America. Today, more than 1000 cities and towns have a Boys’ and Girls’ Club serving American youth.  One of my work colleagues fondly recalls his days as cadet #283 in the Waterloo East Boys’ and Girls’ Club. He can recite from memory the club code: ‘I believe in God and the right to worship according to my faith.  I believe in America, the American way of life, the Constitution and the Bill of Rights.  I believe in fair play, honesty and sportsmanship.’

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