History of Louisiana Boys State
Boys State began in 1935 in Illinois, and came to Louisiana five years later, in 1940. Originally called Pelican State, it is sponsored by the Louisiana Department of the American Legion. Boys State is one of the many “Americanism” programs sponsored by the American Legion and is widely recognized throughout the country as one of the most outstanding youth programs for teaching government and citizenship.
The first director of Louisiana Boys State was J. Perry Cole, a math professor at LSU. The assistant director was Dr. Alden Powell of the LSU Department of Government.
The first program had 110 citizens. Dr. Powell’s book, “Louisiana Government at a Glance,” became the handbook for Louisiana Boys State. It was written into a textbook called “Premier of Government In Louisiana.” So successful and effective was the book that in 1946 it was adopted as a state high school civics book.
Those two pioneers were followed by Dr. A.R. Chopin, another member of the LSU faculty. He served as Director of Louisiana Boys State for 32 years. In recognition of Dr. Chopin’s great service and dedication, the A.R. Chopin Award is given each year in recognition of the Citizen who best embodies the traits and ideals of the program. In 1974, Albert Clary, the Registrar of LSU and Assistant to the Vice-Chancellor was named Director of both the Boys and Girls State programs. Upon his retirement, Ms. D’Ann Morris, also an LSU employee, became the director of both programs.
In 2007, Dewey Coles assumed the title of Director of Louisiana Boys State as the program moved for the first time to Northwestern State University’s campus in historic Natchitoches, LA. Gil Lovelady assumed the position of director in 2010 upon Mr. Coles’ retirement.
In 2011 Louisiana Boys State saw many structural changes and modernization of various aspects of the program, updating activities and creating an atmosphere more engaging and conducive to leadership training in the 21st century. The current Chairman of the Louisiana Boys State Commission, Mr. Philip Legendre, oversees the Program Staff of Louisiana Boys State who work year-round to ensure the continued success and high standard of excellence associated with the program over the past 75 years.
In the 75 years since its inception, Louisiana Boys State has altered the lives of some estimated 25,000 young men in the State of Louisiana.
What is Boys Nation?
From the American Legion:
Two representatives from each of the 49 Boys States represent their state at Boys Nation in Washington, where the young leaders receive an education on the structure and function of federal government.
The first Boys Nation – then called Boys Forum of National Government – convened at American University in Washington in August 1946. The 1946 American Legion National Convention adopted the event as an official youth activity. Three years later, it became American Legion Boys Nation.
At the event, each delegate acts as a senator from his Boys State. The young lawmakers caucus at the beginning of the session, then organize into committees and conduct hearings on bills submitted by program delegates.
Senators learn the proper method of handling bills, according to U.S. Senate rules. Participation in the political process is emphasized throughout the week, including organization of party conventions and nominating and electing a president and vice president.
The week of government training also includes lectures, forums and visits to federal agencies, national shrines, institutions, memorials and historical sites. On Capitol Hill, Boys Nation senators meet with elected officials from their home states.
Since Boys Nation began in 1946, a number of its graduates have been elected to public office, including presidents, congressmen, state governors and state legislators. Many others have been inspired to work for the campaigns of individuals seeking public office.