North Dakota Boys State History
by David A. Wolf, Director Emeritus and Honorary Governor
How it all began |
The Illinois State American Legion Convention passed a resolution asking that Boys State be made a part of the Americanism program of the Legion. This was then adopted by the National Convention.In the fall of 1934. meetings were held with State and District officers of the civic clubs—such as Rotary, Lions, Kiwanis and several other patriotic organizations. We recommended a joint enterprise, but they preferred the Legion organize and sponsor the project and they would assist through their local chapters and solicit their support in sponsoring boys to attend Boys State. Many meetings were held, with other patriotic organizations, as well as with the American Legion Posts.
The Goal of Boys State |
The strength of any nation is not measured by its armed forces alone. First, it lies in the character, the honor, the courage, the devotion, the intelligence, the loyalty and sincerity of its citizenship. A nation is as strong only as its citizenship is strong. Citizenship with its various privileges carries with it corresponding duties and obligations.
A man becomes a good citizen only when he understands his government, when he recognizes his duties and his responsibilities to his government, when he participates in its problems, shares in it’s burdens, protects its good name and contributes to the richness of its life. At Boys State we try to establish that our government is not a relic of the past, it has not outrun its usefulness, and it should not be replaced. It is just as firm, just as fair and workable as the day it was founded, and all it needs is a clear understanding of its structure, and a desire, willingness, and determination on the part of its citizens to preserve it.
Illinois had the first Boys State, in 1935. It had 235 delegates; By 1978, its enrollment was 995 delegates. (The previous information was extracted from a study made by W. Glen Rardin, who has served in the American Legion Boys State program in Virginia. He has served with dedication and enthusiasm for a total of 37 years as counselor, director and executive vice president and advisor.)
North Dakota Boys State |
The first North Dakota Boys State was held at the State School of Science, Wahpeton, in June of 1938. Mr. LeRoy Pease was Director. To prepare for this program, LeRoy Pease, Richland County Superintendent of Schools; M. B. Zimmerman, Wahpeton Superintendent of Schools; G.W. Haverty, Assistant State Supervisor of Trades and Industrial Education at the Science School; John Peschel, Richland County Clerk of Court; and Frank Webb, Public Relations Officer at the University of North Dakota; drove to Springfield, Illinois, in 1937 to observe the organization and functions of Illinois Boys State, now in its third session.
A great deal of work and preparation was required to recruit the delegates and arrange for the housing, feeding, and scheduling the week of activities. 238 delegates attended the first North Dakota Boys State. James Schwarzrock of Wahpeton was elected the first North Dakota Boys State Governor.
As this history covers fifty Boys State sessions, I have prepared a page for each session, listing the name of the Boys State Governor, the elected state officia1s, and the speakers that spoke at each session, and the names of the Boy Staters that attended Boys Nation in Washington, D. C. I have also listed the educational accomplishments of each governor as well as his occupational achievements I have always marvelled how these several hundred young men would arrive at Boys State on Sunday afternoon, and elect a governor by Tuesday morning; if you will review the accomplishments of each of the governors, you will agree that the selection has been superb.
I have some personal opinions as to why North Dakota Boys State has been one of the outstanding Boys State programs in our country. I have been on the staff for 44 of the 50 Boys States, having missed only six which occurred around the World War II era. I wish to list individuals who have had much to do. With starting and maintaining this wonderful program.
The founders and early developers were LeRoy Pease, N. B. Zimmerman, G. W. Haverty, John Peschel, Frank Webb, Arve Dahlen, Carl F. Seifken, Forrest Henderson and George Bertelson. Henderson and Bertelson were early governors who continued on the staff for many years. Les Pavek and Jim Ferguson were long-term Deans of Counselors; In addition, Pavek held important positions at the University of North Dakota and North Dakota State University; he assisted us in selecting young men at both universities for our counseling staff. Ferguson had employment all over our country, but returned to work with us in this wonderful program. Chief Justice James Morris and Chief Justice Ralph L. Erikstad, both of the North Dakota Supreme Court, and District Judge Kirk Smith, a former governor. Judge Morris started with us at the first N D Boys State and installed our state officials from 1938 through 1965 and assist with our court trial; Judge Erikstad took over in 1966 and into the 1990s. Judge Smith installed our elected state officials if the Supreme Court Justices had national meetings, etc. Judge Smith also aided the Grand Forks Post in securing Boy Staters. A big thank you goes to Jack Williams, Vern Useldinger and Dave Schmit, for their never failing support to Boys State and the Director. Thanks also to the many Legionnaires at the State and Post levels; without their cooperation, there would have been no North Dakota Boys State. Many members of the North Dakota State University staff for many years assisted us in our program and also helped coordinate our activities in making the stay of our several hundred young men on their campus more enjoyable.
I have two final thank yous to make. They are Marcus McDonald, his wife Doris, and their three children. The other is my wife Rosemary and our six children. All of the McDonald children and the Wolf children have college degrees and are doing well. The two McDonald boys and the three Wolf boys all attended Boys State and later served as counselors on our staff. All of the girls assisted us by doing much of the stenographic work, etc.
Most people, even in the American Legion, do not realize that the Director’s work lasts from January to July every year. The mailings, securing of staff, making arrangements at the college, etc., takes up one/half of the year. Mr. McDonald and I stored all of the records, etc., etc. in our house and garage, and that was headquarters for Boys State for 51 weeks of the year. Doris and Rosemary also did their share and had their house and/or garage over crowded for 51 weeks a year Thank you to both families, as Mac and I could never have done it alone.
The selection of Marcus McDonald as Director, beginning in 1974, was a super decision. Marcus and Doris went through the training period, step by step. Marcus was employed as Data Processing Manager. During his first years with Boys State, he converted our program onto computers, which facilitated much of the work. He was a very hard worker, and his personality was such that he has fine rapport with the Boy Staters, the Boys State staff, and with American Legion officials and membership. He developed the Emergency Management Program, which has now been adopted by other Boys States.
David A. Wolf, June 7, 1992