United States Junior Chamber
|Motto||Leadership Training Through Community Service|
|Services||See complete services listing.|
|Fields||Individual, Community, International, Business|
|Key people||President Fay Poissant,
Executive Director Joel Harper
The United States Junior Chamber (JCs or more commonly Jaycees) is a leadership training and civic organization for people between the ages of 18 and 40. Areas of emphasis are business development, management skills, individual training, community service, and international connections. The U.S. Junior Chamber is a not-for-profit corporation/organization as described under Internal Revenue Code 501(c)(4).
Established January 21, 1920 to provide opportunities for young men to develop personal and leadership skills through service to others, the Jaycees later expanded to include women after the United States Supreme Court ruled in the 1984 case Roberts v. United States Jaycees that Minnesota could prohibit sex discrimination in private organizations.
Hawaii would become a source of good news for the 20-year old U.S. Junior Chamber of Commerce and horrifying news for the nation in the first two years of the new decade. In 1940, the territory became the 40th state organization established in the movement. It was, of course, also home to a major naval base in Pearl Harbor, target of a surprise air attack from the Japanese on December 7, 1941, prodding the United States to enter World War II.
The attack itself was a surprise, but awareness that the nation was about to enter the conflict was not. Six months earlier at the 21st Annual Meeting, The U.S. Junior Chamber of Commerce became the first young men’s group to back the principle of the draft. Since Jaycees were in the age bracket, which would be hit hardest in the war, this was a courageous and historic position to adopt.
Programs dealing with Americanism and physical fitness were receiving increased emphasis as other domestic issues were fading in the face of the impending war. Many projects were put on a “service level,” meaning the national headquarters would continue issuing information about them, but would provide no other promotional structure. Nonetheless, programs on venereal disease, aviation development, city beautification, street and highway lighting, fire prevention and civil identification – the emerging technique of fingerprinting – continued to be carried our by the still growing number of chapters.
In the 1939-41 period, The USJCC added 420 Chapters with individual memberships shooting up to a total of nearly 67,000. Income for those two years produced a total surplus of $11,500. With more than 1,000 active chapters by the end of the 1940-41 year, the movement had never been so vigorous of financially sound.
Already, The USJCC was planning ahead for the war and post-war years. A 1941 Annual Meeting resolution called for curtailment of non-essential non-defense expenditures, better recreation facilities for soldiers, and a competent board to study and make the inevitable adjustments that would be necessary at the end of the war.
The USJCC’s thorough cooperation with the Selective Service System and the resolution favoring the draft may have contributed to the commissioning of many top USJCC leaders in the armed forces; men destined to compile brilliant military records.
The organization got just what it would need when it elected Walter W. Finke of Minneapolis as its 22nd president a half-year before the Pearl Harbor attack. Finke, the director of Social Welfare in Minnesota at the time of his election, already was known for his superb administrative and organizational skills. Preparing for conversion from peacetime to wartime operations, he immediately revamped the way the headquarters office was run, making it more efficient and economical. Local chapters began receiving an expanded and improved array of services and publications.
Following America’s entry into the war, a special board meeting was called in early 1942 to “develop further ways and means of throwing the full force and vigor of the Junior Chamber men behind America’s war effort,” according to Finke. Delegates from 40 states attended and heard presentations from almost every appropriate government agency. The meeting helped to shape what became a brilliant USJCC effort in scrap drives, sale of defense bonds, entertainment of soldiers, bold drives and many other home front activities.
Not forgotten, of course, was the most important duty, described by USJCC Executive Vice President Doug Timmerman: “Service with the armed forces is absolutely number one on any young man’s list today. Service on the home front by those men, who for valid reasons remain there, is an essential activity to aid in the war effort and maintain civilian morale.”
By the end of World War II, 85 percent of all Jaycees had served in the military, but actual membership only dropped by one-third. The dedicated work of Jaycee leaders who stayed behind and a concerted effort to bring in new blood, not only keep the organization from disintegrating, but also left it with an enhanced stature. For the first time, the Junior Chamber movement worked on getting farmers to join, since many of these men were deferred from the armed forces.
In April 1942, dues were increased for the first time in 14 years, doubling to $1. This enabled a revitalized Future magazine to be issued to every Jaycee on a monthly basis. Future became a great unifying force in the movement, appearing regularly for 49 years until it was renamed Jaycees Magazine in 1987.
The Annual Meeting that June was dubbed the “War Conference” and would be the last large-scale convention for four years. Jaycees, wanting to attend a final Junior Chamber get-together before going off to war, attended the Dallas meeting in record numbers. The resolutions they adopted reflected many phases of the war effort, including endorsement of selective service, voting privileges for soldiers, and a call for all members to invest 10 percent of their earnings in defense bonds. They also eloquently resolved to “repledge our full and continued support and willingly offer our service and lives, if need be, to the accomplishment of that desired victory and peace.”
Another key resolution in 1942 called for investigation on extending the Junior Chamber movement into the Latin American Countries. This would bear fruit the next spring when, armed with just $500 and four manuals translated into Spanish, a U.S.-led delegation formed Junior Chambers in Mexico City, Mexico; Guatemala City, Guatemala; San Salvador, El Salvador; Tegucigalpa, Honduras; Managua, Nicaragua; San Jose, Costa Rica; and Balboa, Panama.
There was also much to do on the home front, as 1942-43 USJCC President William M.Shepherd realized. He continually stressed that Jaycees still in the United States were “trustees” of the organization while many members were away, serving with the armed forces. Without any wartime travel priority, he battled his way onto airplanes, trains and buses to carry the Junior Chamber message to 43 states during his term.
Even in the war’s most crucial period, Jaycees weren’t overlooking the fact the war would eventually end and peacetime adjustments would be needed. They organized a meeting with the executives of several planning agencies to cooperate in the publication of a handbook to be issued by The USJCC. Nearly completed in a half year, the handbook included articles on the adjustment of veterans to civilian life and many other subjects.
While Jaycees were responding to a call from the Office of Price Administration to educate Americans about price ceiling programs, they were making a number of additional major contributions to the war effort. Oklahoma City Jaycees brought actress Bette Davis to town and sold $1 million worth of war bonds in just four hours. Cincinnati Jaycees provided invaluable recruiting help by sponsoring Naval Aviation Nights. In Appleton, Wisconsin, Jaycees initiated a pre-induction training course to make it easier for civilians to adjust to service life.
Jaycees also faced up to the struggle to maintain their own existence. Membership turnover was so rapid that one chapter had seven different presidents in the course of one year. State officers worked unbelievably hard, led by Texas President John Ben Shepperd who journeyed 23,000 miles, hitchhiking when he had exhausted his gasoline ration tickets.
Nationally, the number of active chapters dropped from 958 to 759 by the end of the 1942-43 term. It would never drop any lower, more than holding its own in the year ahead against the hardships of war. Travel restrictions made a real convention impractical as well as unpatriotic, so a war conference meeting was held in Chicago, attended by 400 Jaycees, and H. Bruce Palmer of Flint, Michigan, was elected 24th USJCC president.
Under Palmer, The USJCC further expanded existing programs while making advances in the areas of membership, leadership training and public relations. Programs to aid the war effort were the most important ones conducted by the Jaycees, as reflected in Palmer’s annual report message: “Because Jaycees are ‘Young Men of Action,’ it is happenstance to learn that this organization collectively has gathered more scrap, sold more war bonds and stamps, obtained more blood plasma, and generated more servicemen services than any other national organization.”
With the cooperation of Westinghouse Corporation, the Junior Chamber issued a manual on the “Rehabilitation of Disable Servicemen.” The corporation today known as Mutual of Omaha joined The USJCC to sponsor a 26-week national radio program called “The freedom of Opportunity,” which featured the Ten Outstanding Young Men of 1943 on its initial airings, Mutual of Omaha also made possible new “how-to” manuals for use by various USJCC committees.
Locals received assistance in the newly organized area of executive training and an emphasis was placed on selling “firm memberships” in the Junior Chamber, so promising young men in various businesses could receive the valuable training.
When the 1943-44 administration came to a close, membership had climbed by 7,000 additional Jaycees for a total of nearly 49,000 and a $2,300 surplus was created on income of $47,500. Even greater growth was just around the corner as many servicemen, having fought through the rugged early year of the war, already were returning.
At the war conference in June, USJCC President Palmer mentioned that if every Jaycee put up one dollar, a sizeable fund would be created to help make a headquarters possi8ble instead of spending rent monies in Chicago. By the end of the meeting, $1,013.25 had been raised to begin the War Memorial Fund, which would be a living memorial to Jaycees who had given their lives in service to the country. Thomas Wood Baldridge of Virginia was named chairman of the fund, a position he held for the next 50 years.
International expansion quickly moved to center stage. Ray Wolff, USJCC international relations chairman, had recommended an organizational meeting to cement relations between the North and Central American groups. The Inter-American Congress began on December 7, 1944 and four days later representatives from the United States and eight Central American countries formed Junior Chamber International with Raul Garcia Vidal of Mexico City elected as its first president.
Nelson Rockefeller again provided invaluable assistance in getting the necessary clearances for USJCC representatives to attend the Mexico City meeting. A month after the Inter-American Congress, he was named Young Man of the Year, the “top” of the Ten Outstanding Young men. This honor replaced the naming of a national Distinguished Service Award winner.
Meanwhile, returning veterans were receiving increased attention and the Junior Chamber implemented a four-point program: help returning veterans get jobs; help them become assimilated in their communities through civic project participation, made easier with a free six month Junior Chamber membership; encourage both large and small businesses to conduct personnel training programs; and help disabled veterans acquire occupational skills. The U.S. Junior Chamber of Commerce was the first organization to promote the idea of serving all veterans on a community level. The Veterans Administration liked what they saw and quickly adopted the plan through regional training clinics.
The returning veterans continued to swell the membership ranks and The USJCC once again was on the growth pace it enjoyed before the Pearl Harbor attack. In 1944-45, 14,000 members were added, but this was tripled the next year with a still record 42,000 new Jaycees joining, bringing total U.S. membership to 105,000 in 1,143 chapters. Now every member was listed in a membership card file that also served as a Future magazine circulation roster.
Services continued to grow as well. An elaborate manual on traffic safety was issued with the cooperation of Liberty Mutual Life Insurance Company, while Aetna Life Companies helped local chapters combat juvenile delinquency by providing a film and free manuals.
With the war still being fought in the Pacific, holding a regular convention in 1945 was not possible and the Office of Defense Transportation denied a request to hold a board of directors meeting, citing a prohibition on meetings attracting more than 50 out-of-town delegates. In the only time the election of a USJCC president has been conducted by mail, Henry Kearns of Pasadena, California, was selected. His budget would nearly double that of any previous administration.
Japan’s surrender in August 1945 meant The USJCC would celebrate most of its 25th anniversary year in peacetime, instead of war. Naturally, service to veterans remained a primary objective of the organization. General Motors Corporation underwrote the entire USJCC veterans program which included providing housing and job assistance, aid to disabled and hospitalized veterans and a “Manual of Ideas.”
Sponsors also provided help in several general programming areas. American Airlines made possible an instruction manual in the development of aviation, Liberty Mutual Insurance provided material for safety programs, Minneapolis-Honeywell helped with a public health manual and A.G. Spalding and Sons sponsored sports-related activities.
The Chamber of Commerce of the United States helped TUSJCC produce a manual of ideas and procedure for a Speak Up Jaycees program to provide a practical method for studying government problems. Referenda subjects were submitted to the membership for consideration. Many Junior Chamber chapters presented tax education programs and a community leadership-training program was prepared. Valuable leadership training for local and state officers was provided through eight regional institutes.
Publicity reached an all-time high with frequent national radio broadcasts and movie newsreel coverage. The first banquet for the Ten Outstanding Young Men was held in January 1946 and was broadcast live on ABC radio, covered by all the wire services and recorded on film by MGM and 20th Century Fox News. Henry Ford II, president of Ford Motors, was named the Outstanding Young Man of the Year for 1945 at the Chicago affair. A month later, the first congress of Junior Chamber International (JCI) took place in Panama City, Panama, and a provisional constitution was adopted. Soon after, The USJCC officially affiliated with JCI.
Tom Baldridge continued campaigning for the War Memorial Fund to build a permanent headquarter. A major step forward had been taken at an executive committee meeting in September 1945 when Junior Chamber communities were asked to submit a bid to have the headquarters relocate to their cities. By the time the 1946 convention was staged, Tulsa had offered $100,000 in financing, but had to wait until the fall board meeting to receive formal approval.
The man elected 27th USJCC president won with a most unlikely proposal. Seldon Waldo of Florida wanted to double the national dues to $2 per member. Money was needed to hire more people and provide them better equipment to serve the burgeoning membership, he argued, adding, “We want to make this great body of young men, with its loyalty, its ideas, and devotion to our country, a great force for justice and peace.”
Waldo’s dues increase went into effect in January 1947, but not until after he had traveled the country to convince the big city chapters to stay in the fold despite their displeasure over the increase. Half of the new dues income was set aside to directly publish and properly finance Future magazine while member services benefited from the remainder.
Sports received a lot of attention in the 1946-47 administration, led by the nation’s first Junior Golf championship in Spokane, Washington. Ray Rice, who as a Jaycee in East St. Louis, Illinois, had developed a Jaycee baseball league for boys that later developed into a national program, was named to lead the sports and recreation affairs for The USJCC.
Texans stayed o the minds of many members during Waldo’s term. In November, former Texas State President Clint Dunagan of Midland died in an airplane crash. Wile state president in 1944, he had visited every chapter in his state within tow months of his election, traveling 12,000 miles to do so. Today he is honored with the Clint Dunagan Memorial Award, presented each year to the ten outstanding national directors.
In February 1947, the Dallas Junior Chamber played host to the first Junior Chamber International Congress held in the United States. They raised $60,000 for the meeting and paid meal and hotel expenses for all 210 delegates. Taylor Cole, a former USJCC vice president from Dunagan’s hometown of Midland, was elected JCI president.
Completing the Texas trilogy, John Ben Shepperd, another former Texas state president, was elected USJCC president for 1947-48. He became known as “the greatest publicity-getter in the history of The U.S. Junior Chamber of Commerce,” primarily by virtue of a 63-city airplane tour he took to speak out on the “Fifth Freedom” – the freedom of opportunity.
He was inspired to take the 14,000-mile trip after he visited Europe and observed the alarming loss of business freedom as a result of communism, socialism and other doctrines. For 33 days, Shepperd and a party of six others, including a Life magazine photographer, garnered tremendous publicity and brought home the Junior Chamber message to huge audiences.
It was during his term that the use of the word “Jaycee” finally became officially sanctioned after popular usage since the late 1930s. Abbreviations had been used since the inception of the Junior Chamber, but these usually were written as “J.C.,” or some other way.
Another major standby of the Junior Chamber also was adopted by The USJCC in September 1947 with the official recognition of the Jaycee Creed as the statement of principle of the organization. It was written by Bill Brownfield of Columbus, Ohio, following his attendance at the 1946 Annual Meeting in Milwaukee. The creed, as originally written, did not include the phrase, “That faith in God gives meaning and purpose to human life.” Brownfield added the phrase in 1950, however, and gave it a place of honor preceding all other sections of the creed.
After serving as national vice president in 1949-50, Brownfield was made an honorary lifetime member of both The USJCC and Junior Chamber International. He was named an honorary president of The USJCC in 1965.
What would grow to be a 10-year oratorical competition among teenagers was started in 1947, drawing 20,000 entries. Originally called I Speak for Democracy, it was renamed Voice of Democracy three years later as annual entries began exceeding 1 million. Promotional literature available from the temporary national headquarters in the Akdar Shrine building in Tulsa, one block east of the present national service center, included projects in agriculture, aviation, Americanism, civic improvement, fire prevention, international relations, public health, religious activities, classroom activities and youth activities.
For about $19,000, the lot was purchased on which the War Memorial Building now is situated, with dedication ceremonies held on the sixth anniversary of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. Funds for constructing the building came in rather slowly, highlighted by the Nevada Junior Chamber’s dramatic delivery of $500 in silver to the floor of the 1948 Annual Meeting as the first state to meet its goal. Despite this, the fund totaled less than $40,000 by the time Paul D. Bagwell of East Lansing, Michigan, was elected president for 1948-49. Delegates to the convention also approved bylaw changes which increased the number of national vice presidents from seven to 10 and empowered the executive committee to select future convention sites upon approval of the board of directors.
The War Memorial Fund drive chairman under Bagwell was Cliff Cooper, a national vice president in the preceding year. Cooper lit the fire under the drive by initiating the Buck of Better program, asking each individual member to contribute at least a dollar to the cause. Each state and local organization was asked to contribute a $100 government bond (costing $74) and $5 in handling charges. These measures, plus hearty competition among several states in reaching their assigned goals, boosted the War Memorial Fund to $160,000 by June 1949. Meanwhile, an architectural contest to pick a design for the new headquarters building was conducted and the winners received $10,000 to draw up complete plans.
Interest in Junior Chamber International was growing, evidenced by the delegation of 26 national officers who attended the Mexican Jaycee convention in October 1948. But even that delegation was small compared to the 136 Jaycees who attended the JCI World Congress in Brussels, Belgium, in what was called Operation Democracy Overseas.
In return for a U.S. vote to stage the 1950 JCI convention in Manila, Philippine Jaycees agreed to return home from Brussels by way of the United States. Divided into five groups, the Filipinos fanned out across the country, living in the homes of American Jaycees, giving speeches, appearing on radio programs and generating interest in JCI. It was during this time that the JCI secretariat was established at national headquarters in Tulsa.
Program participation continued improving, helped along by a growing list of outside sponsors such as Sherwin-Williams Paint (for Fly Free America, an aviation project) and the Decorative Lighting Guild of America (for Christmas lighting projects). Organizational expansion hit a standstill with a decrease of about 1,000 individual members in 1948-49, but income soared from less than $300,000 the year before to $365,000.
Despite the financial growth, The USJCC was unable to put any funds into a contingency reserve, as had been hoped. The organization had been spending money on providing services to chapters as fast as the money had come in. Foreshadowing more drastic measures in the years to come, The USJCC instituted several new financial controls and issued the first real policy manual in its history.
In 30 years, The U.S. Junior Chamber of Commerce had grown into a sizeable business operation and administrative overhaul was overdue. It would come during the administration of Clifford D. Cooper and his successor, Dick Kemler. First, however, there was a building to be built and, once again as the Junior Chamber faced a new decade, the war drums were beating overseas.
- Junior Chamber International
- List of civic, fraternal, service, and professional organizations
- Ten Outstanding Young Americans