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Services of the Thirties
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Services of the Forties
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This We Believe
National 4-H Service Committee Leadership
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National 4-H Service Committee Board and Members 1921-1976
National 4-H Service Committee Donors
National 4-H Donors Conference
National 4-H Service Committee Professional Staff
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In the early 1900s, a new concept of education sprang up in rural areas. In this movement, which later came to be known as the 4-H program, these two groups of people played an important part:
1. Progressive rural educators who took the lead in giving "head, heart and hand" training to farm boys and girls.
2. Generous business firms and individuals who aided those educators by furnishing incentives to rural youth for outstanding accomplishments in farming and homemaking.
The pioneer efforts of the educators soon led to government support of 4-H Club work, administered by the Extension Services of the state agricultural colleges (land-grant universities) and the U.S. Department of Agriculture. And the backing of business enterprise evolved into the National Committee on Boys and Girls Club Work, established in 1921, and later renamed the National 4-H Service Committee.
In the Beginning
In September 1921, the first unofficial meeting of the National Committee on Boys and Girls Club Work took place in Chicago. Attending the meeting were Guy L. Noble, an employee of Armour Packing Company; E. T. Meredith, publisher of Successful Farming; E. N. Hopkins, editor of Meredith Publishing Co.; Barney H. Heide, secretary of the International Live Stock Exposition; John W. Coverdale, secretary of the American Farm Bureau Federation; and A. B. Drummond, a representative of the Wilson Packing Company. The meeting was the beginning of a major organizational change in club work.
As discussed in the history book, 4-H: An American Idea 1900-1980 by Thomas and Marilyn Wessel, all participants in the Chicago meeting had become interested in club work in the previous years. Hopkins had been exposed to club work while a farm magazine editor in Arkansas and hearing speeches by Perry Holden (considered the "father of hybrid seed corn") on how farm youth could be the vital link in getting their parents to try new practices like using hybrid seed. Consequently, during a campaign to wean Arkansas away from a single-crop agriculture and raise more foodstuffs, he found, as had others before him, that one of the best means of educating the agricultural community was through boys and girls clubs. Later he was instrumental in interesting Meredith in club work and served as manager of Meredith's loan fund to finance club projects.
Noble first encountered club work through his employment with Armour Packing Company. A former college roommate informed Noble of his association with pig clubs in Nebraska. Noble proposed to his employers that the Armour Company offer trips to the Chicago International Live Stock Exposition as prizes to state club winners. In 1919, 40 young men and women went to Chicago as guests of the Armour Company and Noble worked to arrange tours and entertainment. By the time of the exposition, he discovered that over 100 other young men and women were in Chicago as guests of private sponsors. The Armour employee decided to include these new-found charges in the tours and entertainment he had organized.
The success of the 1919 Chicago program suggested the need for some kind of permanent organization for the yearly event. At an Iowa Swine Show in Des Moines in early 1920, Noble, Hopkins, George Farrell and Milton Danziger from the USDA discussed the relationship between club work and private business. Extension's George Farrell proposed "There ought to be a national committee." Noble, Hopkins and Daniger took his statement as a cue for action.
Two months later Noble had organized the successful 1920 tours for over 475 young men and women in Chicago as contest winners from several states. When it closed, Noble and Hopkins chatted as they walked over the Chicago River bridge... "What happened to the committee that Farrell suggested to coordinate all this?" Noble inquired. "Nothing," Hopkins replied. "Then" said Noble, "Let's start one."
Before 1920 ended, Noble and Hopkins had secured Farrell's support for a private citizens' committee with representatives of public agencies serving as advisors. And they set about drawing up a list of suggested personnel for the committee.
In May 1921, Noble took a leave of absence from Armour Company to organize the National Committee on Boys and Girls Club Work. He quickly enlisted the aid of Meredith,
At their first meeting, organizers of the National Committee dealt with the practical concerns of office space and stenographic help. The Farm Bureau Federation offered to donate space for an office. In a later meeting with Farrell of the Extension Service, they agreed on four objectives: to promote club demonstrations before state associations, to publicize club work, to encourage bank loans to young people in club work, and to coordinate all donations and efforts of private sponsors then contributing to club work. Later the group agreed to raise $30,000 to help meet their objectives. That day, Hopkins announced before a group of young people visiting the McCormick works as part of a club tour that the National Committee had been formed and that Noble would be its first executive secretary.
Organizing the work of the National Committee was formidable. Noble had a small office and part-time secretarial help, but he had no budget; except for a few state leaders and interested business people, the organization was virtually unknown. To complicate matters, the Committee's founding coincided with a drastic downturn in the economy that resulted from inflated business activity during the war years. By mid-1921, industrial prices had fallen nearly 50 percent, not to recover until 1924. Agricultural prices fell by 50 percent as well, but most did not recover for the next 20 years.
Noble's goal in the first year of the Committee had been to raise $30,000. He collected less than $3,500. The timely aid of $750 from Meredith and the Chicago Board of Trade probably kept the Committee alive. In the meantime, Noble worked to publicize the Committee's activities, to both the business community and Extension agents. A newsletter along with booklets and pamphlets went out to 2,000 agents in the states. At the end of the first year, the Committee had a financial balance of $6.10.
Although the financial goals of the Committee had not been met, the annual club tours to Chicago continued to be great successes. Through the efforts of Bernice Carter Davis, educational director of the Hazel-Atlas Glass Company, the Committee arranged earlier that year for a series of regional canning contests; 10 finalists were to compete in a national contest at the 1922 Chicago Exposition. Two teams winning the national contests would tour France under sponsorship of the American Committee for Devastated Europe, one of a series of philanthropic efforts to help Europe recover from the ruin of the war. During June and July, winning teams from Iowa and Colorado and their state leaders toured France giving demonstrations and learning about French cuisine.
Another widely publicized event took place at the national gathering in Chicago. Earlier in 1922, the Iowa State Fair had chosen the state's healthiest boy and girl as a publicity stunt. Noble witnessed the selection and decided to hold a national contest. State leaders recommended the healthiest boy and girl from their delegation. Amid a great deal of fanfare, doctors probed the young people, and the nation's healthiest boy and girl were declared. Names and pictures of the winners made the pages of newspapers throughout the country. The idea of selecting the healthiest boy and girl was undoubtedly a bit of a sham, but it did publicize the work of the Committee and the serious intent of club projects to encourage health programs in rural America.
Although the Committee's financial success in 1923 was only marginally better than the year before, there were hopeful signs. That year the Committee began publishing The National Boys and Girls Club News and gained the endorsement of several important businesses. Montgomery Ward, for example, donated a much needed $5,000 to club work, beginning a continuous association with the 4-H movement that lasted for decades. Equally important was bringing the work of the Committee to the attention of major business associations. In the spring of 1923, Noble took a canning team and a dairy cattle demonstration team to the annual meeting of the American Bankers' Association in Rye, New York. There on the grounds of the Rye-Biltmore Country Club, some 300 bankers witnessed chicken canning and demonstrations of techniques of judging superior dairy cows. Two young men explained how their project had resulted in dairy herd improvement and more profit. Noble presented the group with a profit statement illustrating the financial value of club work. Before the meeting ended, the bankers endorsed club work as their top agricultural project.
Also in 1923, a state club leader from Tennessee suggested that the "tour" in Chicago should take on a more consequential name and proposed calling the meeting a club congress. The success of the previous two years indicated that there would be hundreds of young people in Chicago, but space available for conducting the event was already limited. In September, Noble asked A. G. Leonard, president of the Union Stock Yard and Transit Company, about providing more space for displaying club exhibits. Leonard responded beyond Noble's hope. The Union Stock Yards had just renovated part of a building and Leonard turned it over to the Club Congress. The extra space came just soon enough. More than 1,600 young men and women arrived in Chicago in December. Noble enlisted the aid of Iowa Assistant Extension Director Paul Taff in organizing the congress; Taff's association with the Congress continued for over 50 years.
The number of young men and women attending the 1923 Congress overwhelmed the organization. Local affairs were under the direction of a committee of state club leaders, along with Gertrude Warren and George Farrell from the Washington office. Even with the help of state and federal officials, the committee was swamped. Reviewing the endless lines of young people, some of whom were unsuccessful in gaining entry to the final banquet, the organizers decided to limit the number of participants. After 1923 each state was allowed to send no more than 50 participants and had to notify the committee of the exact size of its delegation. The next year's attendance was a more manageable group of just over 1,000.
The success of the first years of the tours moved the National Committee to formally incorporate the organization, select a board of directors and prepare a statement of purpose. Meredith, who had been chairman of the National Committee, agreed to serve as a director, but recommended that Wilson serve as the first chairman of the incorporate committee, In addition to Meredith and Wilson, the first Board of Directors of the National Committee on Boys and Girls Club Work included Coverdale of the American Farm Bureau Federation, Heide from the International Live Stock Exposition, and Burton M. Smith, a banker from North Lake, Wisconsin.
As stated in the original charger, the Committee was dedicated to giving "rural boys and girls an opportunity to develop themselves educationally, economically, morally and socially, through clubs demonstrating all phases of agriculture and home economics; to publish bulletins and magazines, to furnish news service to the press; to conduct public demonstrations; to organize Junior Club Work Departments at fairs and expositions; to solicit prizes, such as educational trips, medals, and scholarships; and to provide funds for appropriations for leadership in clubs throughout the country.
The formal creation of the National Committee on Boys and Girls Club Work was a milestone. For the first time a private organization of national consequence was dedicated to the task of supporting a public educational effort. Further, its progress was entirely voluntary. The combination of federal, state, county and private support aimed at the single objective of elevating country life was a unique occurrence that became a model for organizations throughout the world.
Support for 4-H
For well over 50 years - starting with its creation in 1921 and going until the National Committee's merger with the National 4-H Foundation into what became the National 4-H Council in 1977 - the role of the National 4-H Service Committee was that of SERVICE.
There was no other entity for the National Committee to replicate - it literally survived... and thrived, in unchartered waters. Working closely with the Extension Service at USDA and in the states - with little money and a small staff... just Guy Noble and a part-time secretary in the beginning - the National Committee was determined to fill the role of providing those needs that 4-H sought most. And, many of these areas which started early on in the mid-1920s, were still central to the National Committee's offerings at the time of the merger in the late 1970s - areas like awards programs, National 4-H Congress, the National 4-H News magazine, National 4-H Supply Service and a strong media service.
There probably was no stronger 4-H partnership between the public and private sectors over the years than that of the national 4-H awards programs conducted by the National 4-H Service Committee. The dozens of awards program donor corporations... most of them representing Fortune 500 companies, were truly friends of 4-H. By the 1960s and 70s the average donor tenure was 19 years, with most of them spending millions of dollars. These national donors of the national awards programs provided county medals, state trips and national scholarships as recognition to hundreds of thousands of 4-H members each year. State winners lucky enough to receive a trip to National 4-H Congress in Chicago experienced a week they would never forget. And thousands of national winners over the years appreciated their scholarships as an assist in going to college and launching a career.
The National 4-H Supply Service, one of the major arms of the National Committee, started out offering just a couple of items, eventually becoming a million dollar a year service to 4-H featuring over 1,000 different product items annually.
During the late 1920s and the 1930 depression years, the National Committee did their part in striving to uplift the spirits of young people and farm families served by 4-H. They solicited writers and composers for plays, skits, songs and recreational activities, offering many of these through the Supply Service and National 4-H News.
Educational aids - member manuals, leader guides, slide sets, films and videos - became a large service area for the National Committee during the 1960s and 70s. Produced with the direction and support of Extension developmental committees... and supported by donor funding, nearly 1,000 educational aids were produced at the national level, accounting for millions of copies sold annually.
The National 4-H News magazine for volunteer leaders served the 4-H Extension System for 65 years bringing continuous news and features to the local club level in supporting volunteer leaders.
The National 4-H Service Committee, from its beginning... through its entire history, placed a heavy priority on 4-H promotion, visibility and media support. The National 4-H Poster Program, National 4-H Calendar Program, Report to the Nation, weekly national network radio programs, and public service announcements for National 4-H Week are all a part of this effort. The media exposure during National 4-H Congress, where anywhere from 300-600 media representatives covered the event in person, where local Chicago newspaper writers worked nights prior to the event writing hundreds of releases, and where extension information staffs helped cover the event with even more press, radio and television, made National 4-H Congress one of the top four media exposed conventions in the entire country year after year. The Awards program donors contributed even more to the Congress coverage by promoting their program winners within their own industries though house organs and other outlets.
The National Committee board and the donors also were not shy about involving people with name recognition on the board and at 4-H Congress. This started immediately by getting the former Secretary of Agriculture Edwin Meredith to be chairman of the board... and President Calvin Coolidge to be the Committee's Honorary Chairman, a tradition with every president thereafter for decades. Corporate leaders traditionally were members of the Committee and directors of the Board. When John McCaffrey, president of International Harvester Company, became a director of the National Committee in 1951, he became the fifth president to represent his company on the Committee in its unbroken support of the 4-H program. VIPs attending Congress came from different walks of life - Amelia Earhart; Secretary of State John Foster Dulles; Admiral Richard Byrd; Vice President Hubert Humphrey; Olympic stars Rafer Johnson and Jesse Owens; Columnist Ann Landers; TV host David Letterman, President Richard Nixon; Entertainers Danny Thomas, Jerry Lewis, and Jim Nabors; Orchestra Conductors Fred Waring and Arthur Fiedler; businessmen Orville Redenbacker and Col. Harlan Sanders; and Astronaut James Lovell, to name a few.
The National 4-H Service Committee board and staff also played a prominent role in supporting major legislation in Congress in behalf of the Cooperative Extension System, starting with the Capper-Ketcham Act in the 1920s.
Although the National 4-H Service Committee traditionally did not have a large staff, they knew how to get the job done. Their impact on 4-H was felt from the national level to the grassroots in every area - medals and awards, support for new pilot programs, supply items, leaders magazine, educational aids, leader training, and publicity support - for all of the 56 years of the National Committee's existence.
Services of the Twenties
As Guy Noble sat at his donated desk in the American Farm Bureau office during those early months of 1922, the task before him must have loomed large indeed. It was up to Noble to find the resources for the $30,000 budget optimistically approved by the National Committee's board and that was not easy in 1922.
As described in the history book, From a Dream to Reality, American farm prices inflated during the war had dropped drastically as Europeans turned to other markets. Banks which had extended credit too liberally to farmers, began to foreclose their mortgages and then, failing to recoup their losses, themselves failed. Inflation had pushed up prices until consumers refused to buy and merchants were stuck with shelves-full of unsalable items. Businessmen were hesitant in giving money even to proven worthy causes.
Nonetheless, sizeable cash contributions were secured that first year from Meredith Publishing Company, Wilson and Company, International Harvester Company, Montgomery Ward and the Chicago Board of Trade. To help make contacts, Meredith loaned E. N. Hopkins on a part-time basis and other committee members helped too. All efforts in that first year were not concentrated on gaining financial resources. Looking to its objective of informing the public about club work, the National Committee became a radio pioneer. Through arrangements with Westinghouse Radio Service of Chicago, news of club work was presented each Monday, Wednesday and Friday at 6 pm. In 1922 there were only 30 stations and a quarter million receiving sets scattered across the nation.
Meredith Publishing gave the radio broadcasts prominent play in its special publication, Boys and Girls Club Leader - "Club members having wireless receiving sets and others who can arrange to listen in on a neighbor's set... will hear something interesting and spicy about club work," the Leader promised in its May 1922 issue.
First National 4-H Congress
The first National 4-H Congress was held in 1922. Then, however, it was called the Fourth Annual Club Tour and First National Boys and Girls Club Exposition.
The first nationwide canning demonstration contest was held in the old International building at the end of the cattle barn. Only a board partition separated the demonstrators from the cattle. Despite their surroundings, the girls worked skillfully at tables, canning fruits, vegetables and meat, eager to compete for the prize - a two months' trip to Europe. The winning Iowa and Colorado teams toured France in 1923, demonstrating their skills under the sponsorship of the American Committee for Devastated France.
The first national health contest also was held behind screens in the cattle barn. The idea of selecting the healthiest boy and girl captured the imagination of the press. And the Extension Service achieved its aim of gaining public interest and attention in young people's personal health.
Noble arranged the Congress program just as he had arranged the earlier tours. State Club Leaders Paul C. Taff, Iowa, and Ray Turner of Michigan, carried major responsibilities for the event with the help of Gertrude Warren from the federal office.
After one year's operation, the fledgling National Committee on Boys and Girls Club Work could claim several successes, but few in the area of financial support. Despite all out efforts, only $3,396 of the optimistic $30,000 budget goal had been obtained. The recession slowed industry's participation in philanthropy and Noble often drew from personal funds to pay the Committee's bills. At the end of 1922 the organization's bank balance stood at $6.10.
The National Committee's financial position improved in 1923. Several railroads contributed $10,000 to the operating fund and provided educational trips to the National Club Congress. The year-end bank balance grew to $1,000 as Noble's salary went unpaid for several months to keep the treasury out of the red.
On April 1, 1923 a mimeographed circular appeared from the National Committee titled, The Boys and Girls Club News. Distributed monthly to manufacturers, railroads, bankers, farm organizations, the press and Extension Service, it was the predecessor of National 4-H News which was published for 65 years.
Adding to a successful year was President Calvin Coolidge's acceptance of the honorary chairmanship of the National Committee, a precedent followed by each succeeding president for decades. In his letter of acceptance, Coolidge wrote,
"Probably no activity is of more importance to the future standing, prosperity and social position of agriculture, than the Boys' and Girls' Farm Clubs. Their activities warrant the belief that they will greatly aid in the solution of many of the problems of farm life and it gives me very great pleasure to accept the honorary chairmanship of the National Committee of Boys' and Girls' Club Work."
President Coolidge also sent a personal telegram of congratulations to delegates assembled at the 1923 Club Congress.
Committee Aids Capper-Ketcham Act
Dr. C. B. Smith, chief of Cooperative Extension, suggested that Noble secure the help of Senator Arthur Capper of Kansas in drafting a bill which would appropriate funds for Extension including club work. The Senator had been interested in club work since his days as a Kansas newspaper publisher when he lent more than $100,000 to club members to buy pigs, calves and poultry. He readily agreed to introduce the bill in the Senate. Congressman Samuel Ketcham, Michigan, introduced it in the House.
To help secure passage of the bill, Noble enlisted the support of 19 national and 78 state organizations. He arranged for adults and club members to testify before congressional committees. Approximately 200 days and some $10,000 of the Committee's meager funds were spent on preparing literature, traveling and telephoning for support of the bill. Of course, public agencies had no money for such activities.
As finally signed into law on May 22, 1928, the Capper-Ketcham Act specified that 80 percent of all appropriations be used "to further develop the Cooperative Extension system in Agriculture and Home Economics with men, women, boys and girls." It was the National Committee's hope the legislation would encourage the hiring of county club agents who would devote full time to club work. Destiny in the form of the Great Depression intervened, however. Most of the funds were used for the vital purpose of keeping agriculture alive in the dust bowls, droughts and new agricultural adjustment programs of the 1930's. The legislation did accomplish one other thing - it included the first mention in federal legislation of Extension's work with boys and girls.
To express its gratitude to Noble and the National Committee, the Land-Grant College Committee on Extension Organization and Policy adopted this resolution on April 14, 1928:
"RESOLVED: That the Committee on Extension Organization and Policy of the Land-Grant College Association... does hereby express its profound appreciation of the distinct service which you and the National Committee... have rendered in promoting the Capper-Ketcham Bill... Such progress has been made is due in large measure to your constant and continuing effort in its behalf. Knowing the sacrifices you have made in so long neglecting your regular work, this committee wants you to know that it appreciates your interest and effort in this matter which is of such vast importance to Extension work in the United States."
Despite its preoccupation with legislation, the National Committee expanded its services in a number of directions in those remaining years of the decade of the 20s.
In 1924, the Committee's monthly newsletter was turned into a printed leaders' magazine. Also on 1924, an Extension committee was formally charged with judging records on which awards were to be made at National Club Congress. Ray Turner, then senior agriculturist in charge of club work in the North Central States, acted as chairman of the committee, a responsibility he carried through 1951. The 1924 National Club Congress delegation also witnessed the first style show - one of the highlights of Congress which lasted for decades.
The National 4-H Supply Service was launched in 1925. Its very first item was a color poster of the 4-H clover which had gained support through the efforts of Gertrude Warren and other extension leaders as the insignia of boys and girls club work. Sales of the poster and other items helped defray the cost of producing a booklet of songs, rituals and facts about club work and available 4-H supplies called a "Handy Book of Club Work."
In 1927, the Committee published Fannie R. Buchanan's "Dreaming" and "Plowing" songs, helping to make good music part of 4-H work.
In 1921, the year the National Committee on Boys and Girls Club Work was founded, club membership totalled 273,614. By 1929, membership had expanded to 750,000 including 86,000 new members who enrolled that year alone. Funds made available by the Capper-Ketcham Act made it possible to hire more extension agents and thus expand opportunities for greater participation of youth. And in that final year of the decade, the National Committee dispersed $82,500 of donor support in the form of awards and services to boys and girls club work. The future for the National Committee looked bright.
But it was not to be. There were signs of economic troubles ahead. The stock market had crashed in 1929, the rumblings could still be heard, and even if businessmen had not quite figured out how to interpret the sound and fury, they were a bit more cautious about their philanthropy.
In the Eighth Annual Report of the National Committee, dated November 30, 1929, Noble stated,
"Your secretary has turned away from the policy of soliciting contributions... and has instituted a plan of constructing programs offering educational trips, equipment or scholarships from business concerns. The Committee provides publicity and managerial services for which the organization receives a service fee. Apparently business firms much prefer to buy a service rather than to give a contribution."
Services of the Thirties
The Depression did not immediately affect the National Committee. In 1930, the organization offered more than $100,000 in prizes, scholarships and trips. For the first time, scholarships were awarded. Also for the first time, delegates to the National 4-H Congress in 1930 saw a 4-H member delegate preside at the huge annual banquet, a practice that continued every year after.
The National Committee did feel the brunt of the Depression in 1932, and even worse in 1933. Some firms and individuals discontinued support and others cut their contributions materially. National 4-H Supply Service sales decreased. The National Committee cut salaries 20 to 50 percent, reduced its staff and lengthened vacations without pay. 4-H fared no better. For the first time since World War I, 4-H enrollment decreased. From September 1932 to September 1933 Extension lost 382 county Extension agents. And a movement among Congressmen to curtail federal support for Extension was gaining momentum. The National Committee's private citizen board members helped persuade President Franklin D. Roosevelt to order a 25 percent reduction only, with a delayed effective date of March, 1934 (later canceled all together by the President). To help secure additional needed public funds, the National Committee's members again worked with Extension in drafting a measure which later became the Bankhead-Jones Act of 1935. The bill authorized up to three million dollars for Extension work. However, it did not specify the amount to be used for 4-H Club work. By the time the act went into effect in 1936, war threatened in Europe and Extension's efforts turned to increasing food production.
1936... The Road Back
In the mid-1930s, the National Committee on Boys and Girls Club Work was described this way in an addition of their annual 4-H Handy Book:
"Headed by The President of the United States as Honorary Chairman and comprised of thirty public-spirited citizens, the National Committee on Boys' and Girls' Club Work was organized in 1921 and incorporated NOT FOR PROFIT to assist the Agricultural Colleges, the United States Department of Agriculture co-operating in extending the program, membership and influence of the 4-H Clubs.
"A few of the major activities of the National Committee are: Helps secure legislation providing funds for county extension work; manages National 4-H club congress, held annually at Chicago; publishes helpful literature and plays; maintains Service and Supply Department; solicits and supervises many 4-H Club prizes; disseminates 4-H publicity; and secures funds for scientific research and publishes the results. All of these are financed from private resources, without the expenditure of one penny of public money."
Boosted by the fact that 4-H had finally reached a long sought goal - One Million Members - in 1936 the National Committee had recovered from the challenges of the Depression and reinvigorated. Confident it was back on the road to financial stability, the Committee moved its offices to a suite occupying the entire 12th floor of the Auditorium Tower and increased its staff to 16. The National Committee had become one of the major contributors of scholarships to agricultural colleges. During the 30's The Payne Fund, through the National Committee, had also established fellowships for scientific study of leadership, motivation and learning to former 4-H'ers with Extension experience.
Extension's Concerns with National Committee
The end of the decade perhaps brought the most turbulent time in the history of the National Committee on Boys and Girls Club Work. There were two major issues regarding the National Committees services which became a concern of the Extension Service - the magazine and the awards programs.
A special committee was appointed by ECOP (Extension Committee on Organization and Policy) relative to the National Committee on Boys and Girls Club Work and Extension Service relationships. Two recommendations accepted by the National Committee relating to contest procedures included: To cooperate with ES, USDA in the review of all national contests now in existence, and to submit all new proposals for contests first to the Director of Extension of the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Agreed upon structure was set up for record judging in the contests involving Extension representatives from the states. Although it was a two-year process, the end result was a stronger, more unified system for 4-H awards.
The second issue related to the National 4-H News magazine. For many years the magazine was sent out to the county and state 4-H staffs and to volunteer leaders at no cost, with the states providing the mailing lists. However, this was becoming too costly for the National Committee and they made the business decision to except advertising in the magazine. The Extension Service did not feel it was appropriate for their volunteer leaders to be exposed to the advertising with commercial appeals, and raised objections. The National Committee held their ground on the need to accept advertising and a compromise was made whereby the magazine could solicit advertisers, however the National Committee would have to change the distribution to that of a subscription-fee magazine so it would be going to only those volunteers who paid for it... not to a captive audience. Naturally, the circulation dropped immediately - from 80,000 to 16,000 volunteer leaders. The magazine remained a subscription magazine for the rest of its many years of operation and eventually regained the total circulation it lost, and then some.
However, 1938 and 1939 were not good years for the National Committee and Extension Service partnership. Guy Noble and Thomas E. Wilson on one side and many of the leaders in Extension on the other. The National Committee, bowing to the demands of a few of the donor companies, were allowing 4-H member endorsements and inappropriate advertising to dictate some of the operations. The Extension Service... and a few of the National Committee's board members even, felt strongly that this had to be stopped. Eventually, Wilson and Noble gave in and further tensions and controversy was avoided. By the end of 1939 it appeared that the issues had been resolved. Although much of the controversy stemmed from poor communication between Chicago and Washington, Noble frequently asking for a more formal system of communication with Extension officials, this led to ECOP authorizing in 1939 the establishment of a subcommittee devoted exclusively to 4-H. The 4-H subcommittee representing both state and national 4-H officials became the principal coordinating body for future 4-H development.
Services of the Forties
The decade started with another move for the National Committee... this time to 59 E. Van Buren Street in Chicago's Loop, in the summer of 1941. They would stay at this location until the 1970s.
As recorded in the National 4-H Service Committee History book, From a Dream to Reality, "if differences of opinion existed in the 4-H family in the late thirties, they were soon forgotten after December 7, 1941, that never to be forgotten `Day of Infamy.' Food became an important weapon in the hands of America's fighting forces, her allies and the liberated peoples. Extension, business and youth united to feed and supply the free world."
4-H'ers Contribute to the War Effort
National Mobilization Week for Farm Youth - April 4-11, 1942 - focused attention on the nation's need for food and fiber and the role youth could play, through 4-H, in meeting that need. The National Committee offered transcriptions of a 4-H radio program for broadcast by local radio stations during Mobilization Week. National 4-H Gardening Programs inspired thousands of young people, and adults, too, to plant "Victory Gardens" in every free field and vacant lot. Victory Farm Volunteers (VFV) were organized as the youth branch of the U.S. Crop Corps - national volunteers to help harvest needed crops. Town and city youth over 14 years of age worked on farms... proudly wearing a VFV emblem offered through the National 4-H Supply Service.
At the request of the Federal Extension Service, the National Committee helped Extension promote adult participation too, by merchandising a Women's Land Army uniform through the 4-H Supply Service.
National 4-H News, in a single campaign, helped meet the nation's need for machinery and materials - a drive to raise funds to buy ambulances for the Army and the Red Cross. Money for the ambulances was secured primarily through scrap drives of badly needed materials. The campaign served as a model for similar efforts in many states.
The early months of 1942 were bleak indeed for America and her Allies. But by the time the first wartime 4-H Congress convened in Chicago, the Marines had landed on Guadacanal and British-American forces were in North Africa. It was a small and sober congregation of 4-H'ers who met that year. State delegations had been reduced from 50 to 20 members. Many tours were canceled as delegates gave their time to serious discussions. When U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Claude R. Wickard told delegates that "Every farm boy and girl in America has a man's part or a woman's part to play in helping to win the battle of production," his audience responded with both enthusiasm and confidence. They were sure they could do the job.
Feed a Fighter
"Feed a Fighter in '43" became the theme for that year's 4-H membership drive. Statistics were distributed showing how much was needed of each commodity to feed a serviceman for one year. Everyone joined the effort. The National Committee developed member and leader recruitment posters. These were the predecessors of the modern national 4-H posters produced annually by Coats & Clark Inc. starting in 1945. Club Week took over the period formerly designated 4-H Mobilization Week.
Sponsor Goals for Victory Breakfast
In 1945, the National Committee sponsored a National 4-H Goals for Victory breakfast in Washington, D.C. in conjunction with National 4-H Club Week. Present were representatives of Congress, the Army, War Food Administration, War Production Board, the FBI - and Vice President Harry Truman.
It was a fortunate meeting. Mr. Truman recalled his early experiences with 4-H. During breakfast he laid claim to organizing the first 4-H Club in Western Missouri and to leading a fund-raising venture to send 4-H'ers to state round-up. Three months later when long-awaited legislation for 4-H expansion came to the White House for signature, Mr. Truman, who had then succeeded Roosevelt as President, signed it into law. The Bankhead-Flanagan Act as it was called, authorized nearly $8 million of a total appropriation of over $12 million for furthering 4-H Club work. It appeared to be the realization of the National Committee's long-term dream of at least one full-time rural youth worker in every rural county. Unfortunately, while the legislation succeeded in increasing the amount of time extension personnel devoted to 4-H Club work, it did not lead to the expected increase in the number of agents devoting full time to the youth program.
The Committee, however, was successful in efforts to secure formal recognition of the services rendered by volunteer leaders. A uniform plan of awards based on length of volunteer service was adopted in 1946 with the National 4-H Supply Service designated to handle the "award of the clover."
Emphasize Leader Training
From the beginning, Extension had carried on training programs for its volunteer leader staff. Following the war years and farms were becoming more mechanized, the 4-H Tractor program was initiated through the National Committee on Boys and Girls Club Work in the central states in 1943 through the sponsorship of the Standard Oil Company of Indiana. The Tractor program was unique - it called for the training of volunteer 4-H leaders before the project was introduced to members. By the time the program secured nationwide sponsorship in 1945, the Extension Service had solidly organized resources to stimulate increased use of power on the farm. Between 1945 and 1950, 110,000 youth and 11,000 adult leaders were trained in tractor care, maintenance and safety. Its success led the National Committee into the increasingly important job of securing funds for leader training in other program areas.
The first Annual 4-H Donors' Conference was held in 1948. It brought together representatives of 4-H donor organizations, National Committee staff and Extension Service leaders. The annual conference facilitated communication, provided opportunities for updating donors on 4-H and Committee developments and services, and allowed for planning and arranging National 4-H Congress events.
In 1949, the National Committee saw another opportunity to bring the 4-H name and emblem to the attention of the public... and, the national 4-H calendar program was born. Calendars not only proved to be an effective method of exposing more people to 4-H, it provided another way of gaining local donor support for 4-H.
In wrapping up the 1940s, In the From a Dream to Reality history the following testimonial to the National Committee is recorded:
In a speech at the 1949 meeting of the National County 4-H Club Agents Association, A. G. Kettunen, Michigan State Club Leader, quoted a Danish representative's view of the National Committee - "We have had club work for 20 years, but this is the kind of an organization we need to support the program."
Kettunen added his own testimonial, "The most significant thing which has happened in the history of 4-H Club work was the organization of the National Committee on Boys and Girls Club Work in 1921."
Services of the Fifties
UN and International Support
The fifties had barely begun when hopes for world peace were shattered. North Korea attacked South Korea on June 25, 1950. The decisive action taken by the United Nations aroused the interest and support of many Americans who had previously been unfamiliar with the fledgling world organization or who had felt it to be unworkable. Suddenly, communities wanted to fly the United Nations flag in observance of the fifth Annual UN Day.
The National Citizens' Committee for United Nations Day was overwhelmed with requests for flags. Hampered by an inadequate supply and by authorization of only two flag manufacturers, the UN committee and Extension turned for help to the National Committee on Boys and Girls Club Work. Would the National Committee make available materials and patterns for sewing the UN flag? Would the Committee encourage women and girls to make and display the flag as an expression of hope for the world? The Committee would and it did!
The flag kits were available on September 1. And by October 12, 35,000 orders had been received. Eighty patriotic, civic, religious, farm and youth organizations sponsored this modern-day Betsy Ross project and two 4-H girls presented to President Truman the first UN flag made by farm women and girls.
In its report on UN Day 1950, the National UN Citizens' Committee commented on... "the extraordinary job of organization performed by the National Committee on Boys and Girls Club Work"... which produced and distributed the flag-making kit. All other work of the Committee had been postponed for a period of six weeks to fill the orders that poured in at a peak rate of over 1,000 orders per day.
Nor was this the end of the organization's international service. Testimony to the high regard which the Committee's leadership commanded in Washington can be seen in staff appointments to international bodies. President Dwight D. Eisenhower appointed G. L. Noble as vice chairman of the 4-H Committee of the People-to-People Program organized in 1956 to promote world peace.
Assistant Director Kenneth H. Anderson, who had joined the Committee from his native South Dakota in 1938, served as consultant to the International Cooperation Administration and organized a Rural Youth Leaders' Workshop in Ecuador, for Latin American Countries.
The Age of Communication
The fifties saw the National Committee move aggressively into the "Age of Communication" as the organization redoubled its efforts to get the 4-H name before the public.
In 1951, a long-time dream was realized as the Committee undertook the publication of a definitive history of the 4-H movement. The National Committee underwrote Franklin Reck's research and writing of The 4-H Story." An Extension Leaders' Committee supervised his work and the committee arranged for publication.
Chicago newspaper coverage of National 4-H Congress hit an all-time high in 1953 -- 4,711 column inches of stories -- nearly 27 full newspaper pages eight columns wide!
With Chicago then the center of the infant television industry, the National Committee was able to attract nationwide audiences for 4-H with 65 network and 150 Chicago radio-TV broadcasts at the 1954 National 4-H Congress.
In 1950, The Conrad Hilton Hotel accepted sponsorship of the first Report-to-the-Nation tour in which specially trained 4-H members traveled to Washington, D.C. and to other major cities relating their own experiences as 4-H'ers.
Committee Arranges Urban Support
History shows that there was some 4-H in urban areas back almost to its beginning. As the Extension Service was beginning to seriously look at expansion into the cities, the National Committee found ways to help right at "home" in the city of Chicago.
In 1958, long-time 4-H friend and donor, John B. Clark, president of Coats & Clark Inc., became convinced of the need to demonstrate that 4-H was flexible enough to serve youth wherever they lived -- even in the city. He contributed $25,000 to the University of Illinois through the National Committee. With the grant plus additional help from The Scars-Roebuck Foundation and Standard Brands Incorporated, the university undertook the bold experiment in Chicago. A husband and wife team were hired to enroll 4-H youth and organize a program meeting the needs of youth. While serving appreciable numbers of urban youth, the Chicago program also provided a model for similar work in other metropolitan centers.
Support for Volunteers
In the fifties, as in previous decades, the volunteer 4-H leader continued to symbolize personal involvement with youth. And the role of the leader was looming more important than ever. If 4-H was to make rapid and sustained growth in numbers of participants and its educational offerings, Extension, the National Committee and donors would need to give greater attention to this segment of the 4-H family. Such cooperative effort brought to 4-H leaders the technical assistance of The Singer Company in a training program designed to help improve the teaching capabilities of volunteers and the sewing skills of their members. The program of instruction then given locally by the company's staff was simply titled You and Your Sewing Machine.
To help secure needed volunteers and to draw attention to the accomplishments of former 4-H members, the National 4-H Alumni Program was instituted in 1953 with Olin Corporation as donor of awards. While the program recognized outstanding 4-H alumni, it also triggered an active search for all former 4-H members and encouraged their participation as leaders and resource persons.
During the 1950s the National Committee started making heavy use of two full-time field representatives, traveling almost constantly for the organization. They attended and participated in 4-H conferences, donors' events, Extension or local leaders' workshops, and other meetings related to 4-H Club work. By means of visits throughout the United States, members of the staff were able to keep in touch with grass-roots thinking, exchange 4-H ideas with Extension workers, give counsel to donors on their cooperation with 4-H, assist in developing leader-training programs and help in evaluating present National Committee services and possibilities for new fields of activity.
End of an Era
The year 1958 brought significant change to the National Committee. Guy L. Noble retired as director of the National Committee after nearly four decades of service to the 4-H youth program. Thomas E. Wilson, the Committee's long-tim chairman, died. Their departure marked the end of an era for the National Committee... and for 4-H.
John Coverdale succeeded Wilson as president of the National Committee. One of the founders of the Committee, he had provided that first desk and stenographer for G. L. Noble, 37 years earlier, in the offices of the American Farm Bureau Federation. Norman C. Mindrum, who succeeded Noble, was a former 4-H'er in his native Minnesota. His personal interest and involvement led him into work as an assistant state 4-H leader, executive director of the National 4-H Club Foundation, and then director of the National Committee.
The December 1954 issue of National 4-H News carried a thorough story on the services of the National Committee on Boys and Girls Club Work in the mid-1950s:
Services of the Sixties
Committee Chooses More Descriptive Name
At the annual meeting of the Board of Directors of the National Committee on May 3, 1960 it was voted to change the Committee's name from National Committee on Boys and Girls Club Work to National 4-H Service Committee, a name more descriptive of its functional service to 4-H. The change went into effect immediately.
Leader Training and Program Literature
For the first time since the Depression, 4-H enrollment declined in the early 60's. If 4-H was to expand, it would have to change. It would require all the skill of the Extension Service, and the National Committee and other cooperators to preserve the best of 4-H tradition while boldly changing its programs to meet the challenging sixties.
4-H continued to play its unique educational role. While the schools emphasized the "pure" sciences, 4-H traditionally stressed the practical application of scientific knowledge. Extension increased its efforts to encourage 4-H'ers to ask the "Whys?" as well as the "Hows?" in their "learning by doing" projects. However, there was at least one major problem. Few volunteer leaders felt qualified to answer scientific questions. They knew how to bake a cake or apply fertilizer; they didn't always know why it was to be done in a certain way. To give volunteers the information they needed to answer the "why" questions, the National Committee expanded its services in the areas of leader training and educational literature.
In 1960 alone, the National Committee disbursed $140,000 for training leaders in Tractor, Clothing and the new Automotive program. Two years later, the Committee made outright grants of more than $94,000 to State Extension Services for leader training and program development. And the next year, the Committee provided a grant of funds to help conduct a National Extension Training Conference on Career Exploration and Youth Development.
In 1968, The Firestone Tire & Rubber Company which assumed sponsorship of the 4-H Automotive program eight years earlier, agreed to fund experimental programs for expansion and leader training in 21 states. The same year, General Motors also provided grants to states for 4-H safety programming and leader training.
The sixties saw the Committee move aggressively into the publication of 4-H literature for both members and leaders, thus becoming a central national source for educational aids.
With Extension 4-H program developmental committees guiding the planning and development of publications and donors providing financial and technical assistance, the National Committee published more than 50 members' manuals and leaders' guides during the decade... a number which would increase to well over 500 during the 1970s.
By 1966, Committee involvement had grown to the point where a special publication was required just to list the educational aids the Committee had produced with the technical assistance of Extension and the support of donors. By 1969, the Committee distributed at cost, 1,400,000 copies of educational publications for members and leaders in 12 program areas. In addition, the Committee processed orders for publications offered by donors in 12 other programs.
National 4-H News distributed annually nearly 3.5 million educational aids, and the National Committee produced 2-1/2 million copies of awards program leaflets, handbooks and report forms in support of its numerous 4-H programs.
Committee's Budget at $2,000,000
In 1966, the National Committee's Board of Directors approved the organization's first $2,000,000 budget. Two years later, Norman C. Mindrum reviewed his first decade as administrative head of the Committee. He gratefully noted that donors and other friends of 4-H in those 10 years had contributed nearly $12,000,000, and that 93 percent had been directed to the support of programs requested by Extension. In the same meeting, Associate Director Kenneth Anderson reported gross sales of the National 4-H Supply Service in 1967 topped $1,000,000 for the first time. The National Committee and its services to 4-H had come a long way since 1921.
Services of the Seventies
Soon after the start of the 1970s - in 1971 - the National Committee and National 4-H Congress both celebrated their ersaries with great celebration. A 50th anniversary history book was written. President Richard M. Nixon flew out to Chicago to address the 4-H Congress delegates. Hundreds of Congress alumni returned to Chicago for the final Congress banquet... too big to be held in the world's largest hotel, convoys of buses transported the thousands of attendees from the Conrad Hilton Hotel down to the new McCormick Place convention center several blocks away.
Norman C. Mindrum, director, National 4-H Service Committee, wrote the following article in the November 1971 issue of National 4-H News in preparation for celebrating the National Committee's 50th anniversary the following month:
Let's Start a Committee
From those words, uttered by G. L. Noble in 1920, evolved a unique model of public-private cooperation... The National 4-H Service Committee... which this year marks 50 years of service to 4-H.
One of the first organizations of its kind, the National Committee continues to draw inspiration and enthusiasm from public spirited citizens who make up its membership. And the contributions, both technical and financial, made by America's private sector through the National Committee, are impressive in numbers and results achieved.
Today, more than 100 corporations, foundations, service organizations and individual donors support the Committee's work performed in cooperation with the Extension Service of the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the state land-grant universities. And through the years, the Committee has matched private resources with the primary needs of 4-H.
During the bleak depression years of the thirties, it helped people get a little enjoyment from life with plays, skits and songs printed in booklet form. The war effort received the total support of the National Committee in the early forties. And leader training, important all along, got a new surge of emphasis.
In the fifties, the National Committee obtained private resources for the start of an experimental urban 4-H program in the City of Chicago. The sixties saw the Committee intensify its services in the areas of educational aids, program development and innovation.
While the seventies have only begun, the National Committee is responding positively to the needs for... expanded youth involvement... strengthened volunteer leader programs... increased public and private resources... and a strong, relevant expanding 4-H movement.
Later this month, November 28-December 2, the Golden Anniversary of National 4-H Congress will be observed. Over the years, these annual events have provided thousands of 4-H members with opportunities for involvement, inspiration, education and recognition. Their accomplishments have been recognized with nearly $3,000,000 in scholarship assistance, a challenge for their effort in the future.
On these dual anniversaries, the National 4-H Service Committee is mindful of its past services, but even more enthused about 4-H in the remainder of the seventies, eighties and beyond. It will continue to serve a dynamic, expanding 4-H program as an enabling organization. And with the partnership of the public sector - represented by the Cooperative Extension Service - and the private sector - corporations, foundations, individuals - the National Committee will continue to provide a viable system seeking new and diverse ways to help youth.
The National 4-H Service Committee welcomes your suggestions and support.
In the following issue of National 4-H News, December, 1971, Kenneth H. Anderson, Associate Director of the National 4-H Service Committee, a position he had held for 33 years, reflects on more history of the National Committee:
Dreams Can Come True...
1971 marks a dual anniversary of 4-H -- 50 years of service to youth through National 4-H Service Committee and National 4-H Congress.
Many consider history -- even 4-H history -- dull, staid and uninspired. Yet others view it as a dynamic living saga, the story of strong leaders and dedicated people, of establishing goals and reaching out to achieve them, of coping with failures and successes, of responding to needs and changes. We think 4-H's legacies and contributions throughout the 50 years in which the national committee and 4-H Congress have been operating, have their share of romanticism and color.
The golden anniversary is a tribute to people -- men and women of conviction... boys and girls with varied interests and needs. It brings recollections of a fascinating story of how youth and youth leaders can be inspired, motivated and well served when government and the private sector team up for a common purpose.
Wouldn't it be thrilling now to listen in on discussions that took place on December 1, 1921, when the National Committee on Boys and Girls Club Work first was organized? Could pioneers then possibly have envisioned the potential significance and impact of the youth service program they were inaugurating? They all were prestigious leaders from the field of agricultural publishing, meat packing, fairs and expositions, farm organizations and government. Foreseeing the importance of the boys and girls club movement long before it came into national prominence, they recognized needs of agriculture and youth and tackled their service mission with zeal and enthusiasm.
The initial board's concern for a coeducational approach to informal learning-by-doing programs is reflected in the name -- National Committee on Boys and Girls Club Work. The magic label, "4-H", had of course, not come into national usage yet. In 1960, the organizational name was changed to National 4-H Service Committee.
Since the word "farm" was not included in the original organizational name, is it possible that pioneers could have foreseen that 4-H would some day be as popular in towns and cities as it is in rural areas? Historical records do not provide the answer.
Communicating the story of 4-H values and accomplishments to the public has been a 50-year mission of National 4-H Service Committee. Probably the first major achievement in this regard resulted from combined efforts of extension and national committee personnel in staging a 4-H parade of more than 1,000 members and leaders at the 1923 International Live Stock Exposition. Members proudly carried banners naming their home states, and huge signs proclaiming values of 4-H training. Nearly 8,000 spectators cheered, clapped and stomped their feet in admiration. The exposition manager broke into tears of emotion. 4-H made Chicago newspapers' front pages for the first time.
These are but a few road signs that tell how we got to where we are. They show dreams can come true.
The December issue of National 4-H News also carried features on the golden anniversary of National 4-H Service Committee and National 4-H Congress, including a great historical dialogue authored by Norman Mindrum, Kenneth Anderson and Paul Taff.
While the 50th anniversaries of the National Committee and 4-H Congress were big events, there were still perhaps far more important things to come during the decade of the 70s.
After 32 years at 59 E. Van Buren Street, just off Michigan Avenue, in Chicago, in September 1973 the National 4-H Service Committee moved their offices across the Loop to the 19th floor of 150 N. Wacker Drive - a brand new high rise office building right on the Chicago River.
In the early and mid-70s the National Committee saw an expanded growth of educational aids development with donor support, including a new element of 4-H outreach - 4-H television series. The National Committee was responsible for the production, marketing and distribution of the support materials, films and videos for the nationally produced series. The most successful was a series on good nutrition called "Mulligan Stew". The National Committee sold over seven million copies of the members' manual alone... the highest volume of sales for a single piece of literature in 4-H history.
National 4-H Congress continued to be the big annual event for the National Committee each year, however traditionally over many years the National Committee staff members also were heavily involved in the planning and operation of many of the other specialty 4-H and 4-H related events. These included the National 4-H Commodity Marketing Symposium, Eastern and Western U.S. 4-H Tractor Operators Contests, 4-H Dairy Cattle Judging Contest, Annual 4-H Dairy Conference, Youth Sessions of National Safety Congress, National 4-H Livestock Judging Contest, National 4-H Poultry Judging Contest, Annual Junior Poultry & Egg Fact Finding Conference, 4-H Auto Driving Events and more.
National Committee staff were also heavily involved in allied groups including Farm-City Week, National Safety Congress, Chicago Film Council, International Live Stock and Agri-Business Exposition, National Association of Farm Broadcasters, and American Association of Agricultural College Editors, to name but a few.
The Two National 4-H Support Groups Merge
In 4-H: An American Idea, 1900-1980, authored by Tom and Marilyn Wessel, the story of the process of merger... and the history leading up to it, is well told.
"It was probably inevitable at some point, that the two would encroach on each other. But 4-H had grown so accustomed to dealing with dual support groups that the National 4-H Service Committee and the National 4-H Foundation existed side by side for nearly 30 years before merger would be accomplished.
"Initially, the two had arisen to address different needs. The National 4-H Service Committee (called National Committee on Boys and Girls Club Work until 1960) was organized to bring together business leaders and the national 4-H project and awards programs. The Committee also published the National 4-H News, founded the National 4-H Supply Service and coordinated the annual National 4-H Congress in Chicago. Contributors to the committee usually were identified with a specific 4-H project and they enjoyed substantial contact with individual 4-H'ers. The Committee - a 1921 brainchild of a group of dedicated Chicago business leaders - always operated in support of 4-H, but it retained a certain independence from the Cooperative Extension Service. Extension created a closely allied private support mechanism in 1948. The National 4-H Club Foundation came into being initially as a bank account for the International Farm Youth Exchange, but it very quickly became a fund-raising entity for the establishment of the National 4-H Center. The 4-H Foundation served another purpose, too. Kenneth H. Anderson, a national 4-H fellow who went to work for the National Committee in 1938, explained it best when he acknowledged that the 4-H Foundation provided a counterweight to the power that existed in the National Committee in Chicago. That power had been substantially curbed in 1939, but Anderson recalled it was then that he began to get indications that federal 4-H officials, including Gertrude Warren, Ray Turner and Charlie Potter, would like their own organization. When it was formed in 1948, the National 4-H Club Foundation provided a new mechanism for raising money for 4-H. Its control was vested in a board of trustees composed, at that time, only of Extension Service and state land-grant college representatives. The National Committee, on the other hand, limited its membership to private citizens and business leaders and had no Extension representation. It was not until 1961 that the corporate bylaws for the 4-H Foundation were changed to allow for business representatives on the board.
"The 1948 birth of the National 4-H Foundation gave rise to many meetings between Chicago and Washington in the early 1950s that finally resulted in a delineation of authority. The 4-H Foundation would concentrate on bricks and mortar and international programs, with some emphasis on research and educational development. The National Committee would continue to publish the News, fund the awards programs, coordinate National 4-H Congress, operate the supply service and carry out its public relations functions. So far as the record shows, there was never any open hostility between the two groups, and 4-H undoubtedly benefitted from their efforts. There certainly was competition, however, and it led to confusion among business people and even among Extension leaders in some cases. Had the two organizations done their jobs with a lackluster approach, there might have been no need for merging, but that was not the case. Both organizations aggressively developed sources of private money, partly because of their professional commitments, and partly because Extension requested an increased amount of assistance from the private sector.
"During the 1950s and 1960s, 4-H asked for private help in staff training, new project fields, expansion into urban areas and work with disadvantaged children. Grant A. Shrum, who headed the National 4-H Foundation until the merger in 1977, recalled "limited competition along with a lot of coordination and cooperation" among the two groups, but he acknowledged that there were problems particularly in planning. It had become obvious to many by the late 1960s that the twin systems were inefficient.
"That specter of inefficiency began to bother Blaine Yarrington, president of the American Oil Company and also a member of the National 4-H Service Committee. Yarrington remembered attending a fund-raising luncheon in Chicago in 1968. The National 4-H Foundation was hosting the event, but in Yarrington's estimate, at least half of the participating business leaders thought they were guests of the National 4-H Service Committee. After all, Chicago was Service Committee turf and many of the long-time 4-H supporters were not entirely familiar with the organizational duality in the private life of 4-H. Eventually, Yarrington recalled, people began to figure out what was going on, but no one would admit his or her mistake by asking questions. `So I listened to all of this,' Yarrington said, `and I thought to myself, this is just one more example. This doesn't make sense.' Yarrington was not the only one who questioned the sensibility of the system.
"E. Dean Vaughan, 4-H division director, drafted a memorandum on August 10, 1970, to Extension Service Administrator Edwin Kirby complaining about the method by which private support entered the 4-H program. Asking the administrator for a reexamination of the issue, he singled out particular concerns: `There are two primary questions. First, should the Service Committee and the National 4-H Foundation be continued as is or combined? Second, what are the hazards and benefits? Should there by a single overall National Extension Foundation?" Vaughan urged Extension to study the issue, but the record indicates no movement in that direction. Many state 4-H leaders also supported a merger, but the first tentative feelers came from Yarrington who became president of the National 4-H Service Committee in 1971. `I found that particular period of 4-H one of the most rewarding i'd ever had,' Yarrington recalled, `because I came into it at a time when actually things were changing. 4-H needed to change and Norm Mindrum was making it clear to me that he needed assistance from me in a different way than he had from his predecessor presidents.'
"In one of their early meetings after Yarrington had assumed the presidency, the oil company executive expressed his concerns about the existence of two private support organizations and the confusion it created, especially in light of the major capital development program already under way to expand the National 4-H Center. He bluntly asked Mindrum to explain once again why there were two such groups. Mindrum, who had given the explanation to hundreds of people in the past, talked about the difference in missions, the international aspect, and the project orientations. He also candidly shared with Yarrington the balance of power considerations that had been present at the creation of the 4-H Foundation in 1948. Despite the fact that some residue of sensitivity still existed in the business world as well as in Extension, Yarrington quickly discerned that the reasons for separation were more political than rational and he suggested to Mindrum that the two groups at least explore the possibility of merging.
"That began a series of informal conversations between Shrum and Mindrum which resulted in Yarrington's visiting the National 4-H Center. Dean McNeal, vice president of the Pillsbury Company and Chairman of the 4-H Foundation Board of Trustees, reciprocated with a June 27, 1972, visit to the Service Committee in Chicago. With a few preliminaries out of the way, Shrum, Mindrum, McNeal and Yarrington met in a private luncheon at the Chicago Club. The four men openly discussed the problems associated with their respective organizations and they noted several items that signaled a readiness to merge. competition between the two organizations had reached the point where it could adversely affect 4-H's relationship with the private sector. It was also evident that while the relationship between Extension and its private support entities was good in the early 1970's, a situation could easily arise in which that would not be the case. And, a merger would save overhead costs by ending duplication in management and operations. 4-H was also undergoing changes in terms of its rural/urban audience, and some speculated that the time for merging might be right. As Mindrum described it later, there was another key argument in favor of the merger. Yarrington and McNeal apparently liked and trusted each other immediately. `The chemistry between those two men was very strong,' Mindrum said.
"The two corporate leaders asked Shrum and Mindrum to prepare a white paper on merger for a future meeting. The discussion piece reiterated points in favor of the merger, but it also stated the objections. Service Committee representatives feared that a merger might move their operation closer to governmental control. National 4-H Congress could be sacrificed, awards de-emphasized and Chicago might cease to be a center of business support for 4-H. For their part, 4-H Foundation representatives were especially anxious that nothing interfere with attempts to expand the National 4-H Center and they did not wish to see any of the citizenship, leadership, or international programs diminished by the awards system. Despite reservations, however, the group decided to form a joint committee of the two boards to study the merger question. Yarrington's words, `I just kept egging them on.' As the merger issue surfaced and discussion mounted, the reasons in favor of the split organizational structure seemed to fade. The issue became one of finding the right merger strategy.
"The first meeting of the Joint Study Committee of the 4-H Foundation and National 4-H Service Committee convened at O'Hare Airport in Chicago on November 11, 1973. The 4-H Foundation was represented by Marvin Anderson, Iowa dean of Extension; Chester Black, North Carolina assistant director of Extension; McNeal; Shrum and attorney Robert Metz. The National 4-H Service Committee delegation included its attorney Norman Sugarman; Robert Guelich, vice president of Montgomery Ward; C. V. Roseberry, regional vice president of Westinghouse Electric Corporation; Omer Voss, executive vice president of International Harvester Company; and Mindrum. E. D. Dodd, president of Owens-Illinois, also represented the 4-H Foundation on the joint committee but he could not attend the first meeting. There were plenty of concerns to be aired and each man had his assessment of the problems associated with merging, but the group reached consensus on two things. They wanted to continue meeting and they agreed to invite Extension Service Administrator Kirby to attend their January 4, 1974, meeting also scheduled for Chicago. There were three more meetings of the joint study committee during which some, but certainly not all, of the objections to the merger were ironed out. On June 17, 1974, the committee reviewed an agreement for the establishment of a permanent Joint Committee on Organization and Operation. The agreement which was approved by the respective boards of the two national groups on October 7, 1974, was the first step toward what came to be known as unified operations.
"The merger generally was discussed only in private conversations during the early negotiations since there were still many unanswered questions and some opposition to the plan. Guelich, who had been part of the merger talks since the beginning, was one of those who expressed reservations. Like many others who had a long-standing loyalty to the National 4-H Service Committee, Guelich feared that a merger could mean the loss of donor identification with important national 4-H programs. He questioned the wisdom of having a single entity which might be more interested in developing and supporting a training center than it was in projects. In summary, he and others in the Chicago area feared that what they perceived as the real strength and advantage of the national 4-H Service Committee might be lost.
"Although it remained undecided in the early days of the merger discussions, it was also clear to Guelich that any single organization undoubtedly would operate out of the National 4-H Center in suburban Washington, D.C. `I was concerned,' he said, `that when you are physically located in Washington you are influenced by the Department of Agriculture, governmental attitudes, and opinions far more than when you are located here (Chicago). And the principal donor support of 4-H projects was not Washington-oriented.'
"Yarrington, who engaged in a good deal of shuttle diplomacy during the merger negotiations, acknowledged that relocation to the National 4-H Center was, from the beginning, an obvious possibility. `It always occurred to me,' Yarrington recalled, `that in the end we would have to go where the brick and mortar were for a headquarters, but that there would be no need to lose any aspect of the middle-western activity as long as we held the National 4-H Congress in Chicago.' Yarrington also believed that the first problem was to accomplish the merger on paper and then work toward consolidating staff and headquarters.
"In addition to assuming the concerns of the business community, both Yarrington and McNeal spent a great deal of time assuring Extension leaders that the unified organization would not become a kind of `super group' that would dominate 4-H. Yarrington admitted frankly that he underestimated the amount of time it would take to convince Extension that the merger could be a source of strength and not a threat to 4-H.'
"As Yarrington and McNeal talked individually with those concerned about the merger throughout 1974 and early 1975, the Joint Committee on Organization and Operations continued to meet. In March and April of 1975, Shrum and Mindrum made informal presentations to Extension directors to keep them apprised of merger progress. As the time for a final written merger agreement drew nearer, all the principals in the negotiations spent many hours in travel, in conferences and on the telephone, in an attempt to make sure that no one was offended or confused by a lack of accurate information. To a great extent they succeeded. Although people in Extension and in the business community continued to ask hard questions, no strong opposition to the plan ever surfaced. In retrospect, 4-H Division Director Vaughan remembered being surprised at how smoothly the whole thing proceeded.
"The joint committee took the second major step in the merger process on April 24, 1975. The committee set up a joint resource development program which merged the fund-raising functions of the two organizations. Yarrington agreed to head the resource development committee. At the same meeting, the joint committee also recommended that a new umbrella organization, called the National 4-H Council, be created. The strategy was to create the umbrella organization first and then slowly diminish and finally dissolve the 4-H Foundation and the Service Committee into it.
"The powerful Extension Committee on Organization and Policy approved the creation of a new organization on August 5, 1975, but only in principle. The group appointed an ad hoc committee to give further study. ECOP Chairman Roland Abraham, Minnesota Extension director, wrote a letter to Mindrum on August 21 in which he referred to the previous ECOP meeting as a landmark event. On September 29, the ad hoc committee of ECOP telephoned its approval of the merger plan. Three weeks later, the respective boards of the 4-H Foundation and the Service Committee met at the National 4-H Center for the third step, the creation of the National 4-H Council. It was a historic occasion which garnered good wishes not only from the participants, but also from Secretary of Agriculture Earl Butz. A joint statement issued to the press on October 24, 1975, outlined the third step in the merger. `Major steps were taken this week toward the eventual unification of the National 4-H Foundation and the National 4-H Service Committee - two national organizations providing channels for private support to the 4-H youth program. Combining efforts of the two organizations will be a gradual process, according to Omer G. Voss, Executive Vice President of the International Harvester Company and President of the National 4-H Service Committee and Jean C. Evans, Chancellor and Vice Provost of the University of Wisconsin and Chairman of the National 4-H Foundation Board of Trustees.'
"The new National 4-H Council was designed to operate with a twenty-member board of trustees. Twelve of those members were to be selected from business and industry, seven from state land-grand institutions and, one from the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA). A few weeks later in early December, Sugarman, the Ohio attorney who served as general counsel for the merger, informed the new board that Extension Service Administrator Kirby had granted authorization for the newly formed Council to use the 4-H name and emblem.
"As America's bicentennial year began, the merger, now four years in the process, was at least halfway home. The National 4-H Council was a reality, with articles of incorporation filed in Ohio on January 9, 1976. The resource development committee, under the leadership of Yarrington, was pressing ahead on its joint fund-raising campaign and certain of the Council's public relations programs also were operating jointly. Nonetheless, there still were problems ahead. A final decision had to be made on a permanent home for the Council. Disposition was required for the two old organizations, which were now in every sense lame ducks, and a professional staff in Chicago and one in Washington, D.C., had to be consolidated with new titles, responsibilities, pay scales and pension plans.
"At the recommendation of the nominating committee, Voss officially assumed the chairmanship and presidency of the board. Robert J. Hampson, executive vice-president of the Ford Motor Company, became a vice-chairman as did Jean C. Evans. The trustees made another decision that was the result of a private agreement between the two men most intimately involved in the merger. Mindrum and Shrum offered the new board their own recommendation on which of the two would have rank in the operation of the National 4-H Council. Both men had exerted powerful leadership in their respective organizations, but it was clear with the advent of the merger, that only one could continue to hold the authority to which both had become accustomed.
"The two had met in 1955 when Mindrum hired Shrum to raise funds for the National 4-H Foundation. They worked together for three years before Mindrum accepted a post with the Service Committee in Chicago and Shrum subsequently was elevated to the Foundation's directorship. Neither would deny that they had disagreed over the years, but it was also true that both consistently had deferred to 4-H and, for the most part, had managed their organizations in a cordial atmosphere. Moreover, they had become friends in the sense that professionals learn to respect each other's abilities. Despite what many foresaw as a power struggle to determine the top man in the National 4-H Council, it did not happen.
"In the initial phases of the merger negotiations, the two chose to ignore the questions of leadership, but as the creation of the National 4-H Council progressed, both knew that if they could not reach an acceptable decision on who would lead, one would be imposed upon them. In a 1975 private conversation for which there are no records and little public comment, the two agreed, apparently without rancor, that the elder Mindrum would carry the title of executive vice president and chief executive officer, and Shrum would be one step below with the rank of executive director and chief operating officer. The Council trustees had full power to reject or alter the recommendation, but they chose not to do so.
"During the late 1970s, the National 4-H Council made a number of hard decisions. It succeeded in merging the pension plans and agreed on a new logo. The Council also began the process of reducing the boards of trustees of the two organizations for final absorption. Although the routes for merging the Foundation and the Service Committee into the Council differed because of legalities, both finally transferred their assets, functions, liabilities and personnel to the National 4-H Council by January of 1977. Thirty days later, on February 1, 1977, the National 4-H Council became operational.
"The merger was not really complete without a consolidation of staff, but by 1977, it was clear that the National 4-H Center would house the newly formed Council. The consolidation effort required about two years to complete and effected a $270,000 annual operational saving. It also meant that while some staff members moved to Washington, D.C., others took early retirements or severance settlements. As with any such undertaking, the merger involved some unhappiness, emotional strain, and at least one formal grievance.
"It was with a mixed sense of comfort and nostalgia that Shrum and Mindrum realized new Extension workers and 4-H'ers would know nothing of the National 4-H Foundation or the National 4-H Service Committee. They would not struggle to remember which group sponsored the IFYE program and who coordinated the National 4-H Congress. They need never again have mail returned with the polite reply that the requested information should come from the `other' organization. 4-H'ers and volunteer leaders would be less likely to suffer the discomfort of thanking a donor for one program only to learn that the firm supported something else. And, business leaders would not have to fret over which 4-H organization was inviting them to lunch. Early assessments indicated that the National 4-H Council had succeeded in preserving the best of both defunct organizations while eliminating the duplication, waste and confusion fostered by the old dual system. It was a new day and a welcome one."
The National 4-H Service Committee was now a part of history. Most of its programs and services lived on... but in the name of the National 4-H Council. Some of its dedicated staff continued working for 4-H... but now as staff of National 4-H Council. And, like most other things that go through major change, it would not take long for the old to be forgotten.
The National 4-H Service Committee has now been gone for well over a third of a century... and most of their programs and services are also now gone. However, the impact of the support the National Committee provided to the entire Cooperative Extension System for 55 years remains a large section of the history of 4-H.
This We Believe
The National 4-H Service Committee printed the following full page pledge in the September 1966 issue of National 4-H News... a fitting closure to this story of a committee expressing their dedication and convictions.
THIS WE BELIEVE
National 4-H Service Committee, Inc.
The National 4-H History segment of the 4-H history preservation website has several other key sections pertaining to the programs and services of the National 4-H Service Committee for more indepth history: National 4-H Awards Programs, National 4-H Supply Service, National 4-H Promotion, National 4-H Literature Development and National 4-H Congress.
National 4-H Service Committee Leadership
From a small "let's start a committee" attitude in 1921 to a major multi-million dollar operation in the 1970s, the National Committee on Boys and Girls Club Work can attribute a great deal of their success to its continuing strong and impressive leadership.
Starting with the honorary chairmen - a string of nine presidents of the United States - who not only lent their names to be the head of the organization, but also strongly believed in... and took an active part in supporting 4-H Club work. The six men who served the National Committee as president over the more than half century were all strong, successful, capable leaders who readily opened doors, particularly to their peers, that otherwise certainly would not have been opened. The men and women who served on the board and as members of the National Committee comprised an impressive list of leaders who had a commitment to not only the boys and girls benefiting from the 4-H program, but also to the 4-H volunteer leaders, the professional staff of the Extension Service, the Land-Grant University System and the U.S. Department of Agriculture... all who they saw as their partners for success.
And, finally, the two gentlemen who served as Directors of the National Committee during these 56 years are a strong part of the leadership story.
Without the above leadership combination, the National Committee undoubtedly would not have been nearly so successful. The Cooperative Extension System was tremendously fortunate to have the private sector support from the National Committee on Boys and Girls Club Work (National 4-H Service Committee) for so long... and, particularly during their growth years.
During the 56 years of existence for the National Committee on Boys and Girls Club Work... National 4-H Service Committee (1921-1977), there were six presidents:
E. T. Meredith
Edwin Thomas Meredith was born in Avoca, Iowa on December 23, 1876, son of Thomas Oliver and Minerva Jane (Marsh) Meredith. He attended country schools until he was sixteen when he entered Highland Park College (later Des Moines University). He abandoned his college course at the age of seventeen to take a position on the Farmerís Tribune, a Populist newspaper owned by his grandfather. By the time he was eighteen, E. T. Meredith had become the newspaper's general manager. On January 8, 1896 he married Edna Elliott; they had two children, Mildred and Edwin T., Jr.
E. T. Meredith's success in life actually started on his wedding day. His grandfather's nuptial gift was a fistful of $20 gold pieces that bought the controlling interest in his grandfather's newspaper, Farmerís Tribune. A note that said, "Sink or swim" was attached to the debt-laden balance sheet. It's clear today that E. T. chose to swim. He turned around the fortune of the paper and sold it for a profit. With the proceeds, he decided to publish a journal that met his vision of what a helpful farm publication should be: a service magazine. In October 1902, the first issue of Successful Farming magazine was sold to 500 subscribers. By 1914, circulation was over the half-million mark.
Always interested in politics, E. T. Meredith was an ardent supporter of Woodrow Wilson and became a loyal Democrat. Meredith sought the party's nomination for the Iowa senatorial nomination in 1914, but was defeated by Maurice Connelly, who in turn was defeated by incumbent, Albert B. Cummins. Two years later, Meredith won the party's nomination for governor, but lost the election. These were his only formal bids for elected office. In 1918, President Wilson appointed Meredith to the American War Mission which visited England and France. In January 1920, Edwin T. Meredith joined the Wilson cabinet as Secretary of Agriculture and served until March 4, 1921 when he was succeeded by Henry C. Wallace and the Harding administration.
E. N. Hopkins joined Successful Farming magazine in 1916. Already a committed enthusiast for boys and girls club work, by 1917 he had inspired E. T. Meredith to offer a $250,000 loan fund to help farm youngsters start in business for themselves. That year - and in subsequent years after - Meredith made hundreds... perhaps thousands of loans to club members so they could buy livestock or chickens or hybrid seed to get their club projects started. These low rate loans for $10 or $25 or $50 were almost always paid off by the due date... if not before. The loans were always made directly to the boy or girl... not to their parents, and the stories and testimonials Mr. Meredith received from the loan recipients made him a strong supporter of boys and girls club work and its potential.
Mr. Meredith became the first chairman of the National Committee on Boys and Girls Club Work, serving in that role from 1921 to 1924. He continued to serve in the role of Member of the National Committee until 1927. In 1924 Meredith allowed his name to be put forward as Iowa's favorite son at the Democratic convention. Early in 1928, he was considered as a Democratic nominee for president, however his health had began to fail and he died that same year, at his home, on June 17 at the age of 51.
In the announcement of his death, the National Committee wrote: "Because of his going the farm boys and girls of America lost a noteworthy champion who for years devoted time and substantial resources to their welfare. Mr. Meredith was a leading and powerful member of the National Committee on Boys and Girls Club Work and his loss is keenly felt by all the Committee members and officers. His contribution to the farm boys and girls of the nation is written in the records as one of his outstanding accomplishments, the influence of which will be felt for generations to come."
E. T. Meredith was inducted into the National 4-H Hall of Fame in 2004.
In 1965, Edwin T. Meredith, Jr. donated 50 boxes of the E. T. Meredith papers to the Special Collections Department at the University of Iowa Libraries in Iowa City. In addition to his papers, the collection includes a number of photos, scrapbooks, letters and speeches, including his correspondence relating to the National Committee on Boys and Girls Club Work.
Today the Meredith Corporation continues to be a strong corporation in the publishing and communications world around the globe. The E. T. Meredith Center for Magazine Studies at Drake University is an important resource, encouraging the study of current as well as historical issues through the Center's Resource Room and through special events on campus. The university's magazine program enjoys a special partnership with Meredith Corporation, publisher of leading national magazines, including circulation giants Better Homes & Gardens and Ladiesí Home Journal.
Thomas E. Wilson
Mr. Wilson was visiting the International Live Stock Exposition in 1918 and observed a group of club boys examining the exhibits. He stopped to talk with them and found out, like himself, that they were keenly interested in livestock. He recalled later, "I thought I could help them in some way." He started that very day by inviting the 11 boys and their leader to lunch with him - the very first of the annual Wilson Day dinners - a program highlight of National 4-H Congresses for many years. This also led to his donorship of one of the early incentive programs of the National Committee on Boys and Girls Club Work, the national 4-H meat animal program.
One of the founders of the National Committee, Mr. Wilson became chairman in 1924 upon retirement of the first chairman, E. T. Meredith.
Wilson was born on a farm near London, Ontario, Canada, on July 11, 1868. He came to the United Stats as a young man, working as a railroad car checker in the bustling stockyards of Chicago. He spent over 25 years working his way up the ranks of Morris & Co, becoming Vice President of the packing house in 1906, and president in 1913 following the death of its founder, Edwin Morris. In 1916, bankers succeeded in luring Wilson away from Morris & Company, in order to run a failing New York-based meat packing company called Saltzberger & Sons. The company's name changed to Wilson & Co., and its headquarters moved to Chicago's Union Stock Yard. It soon joined Armour and Swift at the top of the American meat industry. Wilson had rapidly built the company into one of the 50 largest industrial corporations in America by the end of 1917.
While at Saltzberger he also ran a subsidiary, the Ashland Manufacturing Company which used animal by-products to create such things as gut strings for musical instruments and tennis rackets. The company was renamed the Thomas E. Wilson Company and aggressively increased the sports line, including other sporting goods such as basketballs, golf clubs and football helmets; plus hunting and camping equipment, bicycles and car tires. The company became Wilson Sporting Goods Company in 1931, today having the largest market share in the sporting and athletic goods industry.
Thomas Wilson was in the forefront on many of the initiatives other donors soon adopted following his leadership. The National Committee offered scholarships to awards winners for the first time in 1930 with Thomas Wilson giving $5,000 in scholarships personally for achievement in meat animal projects. In 1931, the National Committee contributed for the first time to advanced study and scientific research, with Thomas Wilson offering a fellowship for formal study and research on the value of 4-H training... Mary Eva Duthie of Cornell University was the recipient of the fellowship.
Wilson's address to the delegates of the First National 4-H Club Congress in 1921 illustrates his belief in rural young people. After extending a hearty greeting to the delegation, which overflowed the Wilson dining hall and another dining hall adjoining, he talked at length regarding the club movement and the opportunities of young people today:
Four years ago he said there were but fifteen or sixteen trip winners present at the first dinner he gave in their honor. Since then he said the size of the crowd had increased to a point where his fondest hopes had been realized until there were 550 present.
"I am glad to have you here and show my appreciation for your work," he continued. "Perhaps you do not appreciate the importance of what you are doing but you and our country will fully appreciate and realize the constructive value of your achievements and activities some day.
"Cities do not yet understand the real value of your work, but I am hopeful that all will soon realize that agriculture is the backbone of the country. You are building up the livestock industry and are assuring the breeders of the day that purebred stock is more profitable than scrub stock. You are producing good stock more economically and you figure the cost as you go along. It is important, too, that records be kept showing what it costs to produce a market hog, beef or any other animal or crop. A great responsibility lies with you and you must and will be faithful. Others look to you boys and girls, men and women look to you, and as young folks you have done fine and must keep up the pace...
"I want to congratulate your leaders and others who are directing the work and helping in the great program. Show your appreciation, as I know you will, by going ahead. They have shown you the way. They have brought to you better methods, that your fathers and mothers knew nothing about, new ideas and ways which will open the door for better things for the coming generation.
"I want to see you go forth to demonstrate what you can do today and will learn to do tomorrow. You have greater opportunities and advantages than your fathers and mothers enjoyed. Show your appreciation and use your ability and opportunities that your parents and myself did not have... Apply yourselves and improve your mind. If you do that you will succeed. Go back and tell your schoolmates, club associates and others about your trip, what you saw and did, and inspire them to compete for these trips. Do not stop until you go through college and equip yourselves for better farmers and farm home makers. You represent the biggest and most attractive industry and it will return big dividends where brains as well as brawn are put into it.
"I hope you will take away with you pleasant recollections of your trip and return home happy and well and filled with new enthusiasm for the work at hand."
In the 1928 annual report of the National Committee on Boys and Girls Club Work, Wilson says: "Boys' and Girls' Agricultural Club Work is now generally acknowledged to have become an established American Institution of practical education necessary for agricultural progress and the National welfare, and is therefore, deserving of the full support of every public spirited citizen. The privilege of playing a personal part in this splendidly constructive movement has always been, and is today, a source of genuine pleasure to me." Thos. E. Wilson, Chairman.
Thos. Wilson retired as chairman of the board of Wilson & Company in September 1953, after 35 years. His son, Edward Foss Wilson, also an enthusiastic supporter of 4-H work, and for many years president of the firm, was named chairman of Wilson & Company..
Wilson's favorite residence was Edellyn Farms, Wilson, Illinois, where he had one of the world's famous herds of Shorthorn cattle. Mr. Wilson died in 1958.
Thomas E. Wilson was inducted into the National 4-H Hall of Fame in 2005.
John W. Coverdale
When John Coverdale succeeded Thomas E. Wilson as President of the National Committee, he knew the organization well. He was one of the founders of the Committee back in 1921 and had provided that first desk and stenographer for G. L. Noble, 37 years earlier, in the offices of the American Farm Bureau Federation. Although Mr. Coverdale's tenure as president of National 4-H Service Committee was brief (1958-1960), he was a member of the National Committee for over 40 years - from its beginnings in 1921 until 1963. His strong beliefs in the good of boys and girls club work early on is illustrated in the address he made at the International Live Stock Exposition in 1921 - at the time of the first National 4-H Club Congress - when he was National Secretary of the American Farm Bureau Federation:
"I am not going to say `boys and girls,' because I am speaking to ladies and gentlemen--ladies and gentlemen of tomorrow, and, yes, ladies and gentlemen of today.
"In behalf of the American Farm Bureau Federation I wish to say that it gives us great pleasure to see this group of young men and women attending the International Live Stock Exposition for the purpose of becoming better acquainted with agricultural conditions, especially live stock improvements.
It almost makes me tremble to speak to this group of blue-bloods because, as I understand it, every boy and girl in this room has won a blue ribbon in their contests. There are very few speakers who ever have the chance to speak to such a thoroughbred audience as we have here tonight, and I am sure that the agriculture (especially the live stock industry) of this country will be improved a great deal during the next few years as a result of your trip.
"I have been asked to speak this evening on what club work means to agriculture, especially to organized agriculture. I often think of club work and its development in the past few years. I have been connected with public work along agricultural lines and have had the opportunity to see much of its work and I can recall the names of men and women who were club boys and girls a few years ago. I have seen them grow up in their communities; I have seen them grow up into young men and women; I have seen some of them go through their agricultural colleges and come out honorary students and go out into professorships in some of our leading agricultural colleges. Some of them today are the leading county agents of the nation; some of the women, or the girls, are becoming our ablest home demonstration leaders; many are now Farm Bureau officers and leaders in their communities. And so we have them going out through the various walks of life.
"And, you must remember, as you are sitting here this evening, that you are expected to follow in the footsteps of those who have gone before you. And what is that going to be? How do I know but what one of Secretary Wallace's successors is sitting here this evening? How do I know but what the Lady of the White House--some day in the future--sits in this audience? We don't know what is in store for us in the future. It remains for us to put the best knowledge we have into use upon the farm or whatever vocation we are connected with.
"As Secretary Wallace has said here tonight, `farming is no longer an occupation where we can go out onto those farms and with our muscles alone make money and a good home; it takes more than muscle today.' The farmer of today or tomorrow has to be a farmer from the shoulder up as well as from the shoulder down, and I hope that every boy and girl in thinking of the future will keep that in mind. I am sure that club work is one of the agencies that is teaching the use of the head as well as the hand.
"There are many features of this convention in which you are assembled that are going to lead to greater things in the future. And you may wonder what they are. The mere rubbing shoulders together during this week--in other words, getting acquainted with the boys and girls of Iowa, Illinois, Nebraska, California, of Georgia or Tennessee, or whatever state it may be, of getting ideas and learning something about the agricultural conditions in their states, or learning something about the conditions in your own state and learning about the principles of cooperation, is the making of a greater club work and that means a greater agriculture.
"There are a lot of things that I could talk to you about this evening but I will not take much time. However, there is one thought that I wish to leave with you. A great deal of the future of this country depends upon you. Remember that you are a part of a great organization in club work that numbers something over 500,000 boys and girls in the United States, and you are the cream of that group. You are the leaders and you are setting the goal and there are boys and girls following you along day after day. They will study some of the methods you have used with which to succeed and they will put them into use another year. And, remember, as this club work grows year after year--500,000 this year, 600,000 or 700,000 next year, by and by a million members banded together in this great work--there comes a time in the near future when your groups out in your states, and in your counties, and in your local communities will have their own clubs and you will have your own organizations where you will meet together and transact business just the same as the grown-ups of your county do through the farm bureau work. What is that going to mean? It is going to mean a greater agriculture; it is going to mean better living conditions.
"Just stop and think what a job you have! For instance, in your home county in which you live you have many successful bankers. They have made a success because they have studied banking. They went to a commercial college or school that taught banking and they studied it, and they have their county, state and national bankers' organizations to look after their business. On the other hand, here is the doctor. He goes to a university and studies medicine. He comes into the community and becomes a member of a county or state medical association. The farmer does not practice medicine because he is not properly qualified and the law will permit only graduate physicians to practice. There, on the other side, is the lawyer who studies his profession. And we look back to the farming conditions and say: "Who is farming?" We will find on the farms, if we stop to analyze, men and women in all walks of life--some with high school education, some of them with not even a high school education; some are graduates of agricultural colleges, of theological schools; there are attorneys, doctors, preachers, engineers, and of every other line, who have gone out and sought training in different lines, and by and by they have come back to the farm. No wonder we have the conglomeration of farmers we have in the country today and the lack of good community organization.
"The duty of the boy and girl today and tomorrow is to build up the community spirit. The principles of cooperation of our boys' and girls' club work means that wherever we have two or three hundred boys in the county and they continue that work ten or fifteen years, there will be seven or eight hundred or one thousand farm families taught to think in the same direction--taught to think in terms of club work. They have been taught cooperation; they have been taught to think of better educational facilities, better conditions in that farm home. They know how to go at their work in team-work fashion and that is going to mean much to the future success of our nation. The future of America will depend upon the boys and girls who have been taught to think alike.
"And after we have one thousand or so farm families in every county thinking along the same lines, the standard of our citizenship will be higher, and that is what club work stands for. That is what the American Farm Bureau Federation stands for, that is what county farm bureaus stand for, and you young men and women engaged in this work are charged with the greatest responsibility God ever gave to man or woman in the building up of our greatest resource, which is agriculture.
"Let me see the hands of those boys and girls whose parents belong to the farm bureau. Almost unanimous! This pleases me--to know how well the farm bureau is represented here, and I want to say that you are members of an organization that today has nearly one million farm families in the United States banded together on a program which means better conditions on the farm, better club work and better life, for you young people.
"I can only say in closing that we are highly gratified that you are here in the city at this time looking over the International Live Stock Exposition; I hope you have a most successful week, and that when you go back into your states and counties you are going to be leaders there in each and every one of your individual communities; that you are going to take an important part in developing the best that can be developed in that community, and you are going to tell Cousin Bill and Cousin Nell what a great trip you had, what a great thing this club work is and how they can get into it, and help them to become prize winners." (from May 1922 Farm Boys and Girls Leader)
John Coverdale was reared on a family farm in Clinton County, Iowa, son of Elijah and Sara Jane Coverdale. His father often had 200 cattle, 250-300 hogs, and up to 100 draft horses on feed at a time, importing Belgian and Percheron stallions from Europe in an effort to improve the quality of draft horses in his community. With such a background, it was no surprise that young Coverdale decided to attend Iowa State College to gain the knowledge and experience necessary to commence his own farming operation. Concentrating on animal husbandry, and filling the balance of his credits with crops and horticulture, by 1905 Coverdale had taken all of the course work available in those areas and determined that he would not return to graduate, believing that further requirements in mathematics and sciences would not serve him well on the farm.
On January 26, 1906, he married Elsie Grindrod, a school acquaintance of his childhood days, and on March 1 of that same year he started farming on his own. He soon started herds of purebred Aberdeen Angus cattle and Poland China hogs. He also started his own seed house operation, specializing in Reed's yellow dent corn, which he sold to his neighbors.
Soon Coverdale began delivering presentations at local farmers' institutes, speaking on such subjects as corn production and the breeding of superior colts. He helped to organize the first farm bureau in the state of Iowa and his success did not go unnoticed. In November of 1912 Iowa State College urged him to become supervisor of county agents. Taking counsel from his wife and father, he agreed, liquidating his farm in November 1912. Coverdale worked not only to educate the public at large regarding improved agricultural production but also to build farm bureaus and to supply them with competent agents. Coverdale was active in the establishment of the Iowa Farm Bureau Federation and when the American Farm Bureau Federation was formed, Coverdale became its first national secretary... the same position he held in the Iowa federation.
In 1932 Coverdale accepted a position with Rath Packing Company, heading up their fertilizer division, a position he held until 1943, when he became the director of Rath's Agricultural Bureau. He remained with the firm until his retirement in the 1950s. In his retirement he managed a 340-acre farm and experimented with orchids and dahlias. Coverdale died on August 22, 1965, in Waterloo, Iowa.
Chris L. Christensen
Chris Christensen was born and raised on a farm near Minden, Nebraska. He received his education at the University of Nebraska, the University of Copenhagen and Royal Agricultural College in Denmark, and the Harvard Graduate School of Business Administration.
After five years as agricultural economist and division chief of the U.S. Department of Agriculture, he became the first executive secretary of the Federal Farm Board when it was organized in July 1929. Here he was entrusted with large administrative duties and executive responsibilities in establishing departments and policies. In that capacity he was closely associated with Alexander Legge, who was chairman of the board. Mr. Legge, who was also President of the International Harvester Company, was a trustee of the National Committee on Boys and Girls Club Work.
In 1931, Mr. Christensen began a term of 13 years as dean of the College of Agriculture at the University of Wisconsin, during which time he also served as a director of the university's agricultural experiment station and its state extension service. During this period Christensen earned a reputation as an outstanding agricultural administrator. One favorite endeavor was the glorification of rural life and work through paintings by artists whose roots were deep in the soil.
He left the University of Wisconsin for a career with The Celotex Corporation. During his career with Celotex, Mr. Christensen had served as vice president, and director and chairman of the Executive Committee. He also served as a member of the board of International Harvester Company and of Armour and Company for nearly 20 years and was a director in the International Live Stock Exposition and the Brookside State Bank of Tulsa.
Chris Christensen was named a member of the National Committee in 1940 and was elected to the organization's board of directors in 1945. Christensen was elected president at the May 3, 1960 board meeting, succeeding John Coverdale, who continued to serve as a member of the National Committee. This was an important board meeting, being the same day the National Committee on Boys and Girls Club Work changed its name to National 4-H Service Committee. He became the fourth president of the National 4-H Service Committee, a position he held for 10 years - from 1960 to 1970, dying in Tulsa, Oklahoma on April 26, 1971 after a brief illness. He was survived by his widow, the former Cora Wells March; twin sons, Christian L. and Charles M. and six grandchildren.
Mr. Christensen brought to the National Committee a genuine interest and concern for youth and a leadership he had gained through successes both in business and education. Christensen repeatedly saluted the "alert, progressive boys and girls who make up the world's largest rural youth organization... and the able leaders for their untiring enthusiasm and guidance in this great and worthy work."
During Mr. Christensen's tenure of president, the National Committee's support of 4-H markedly increased.
Blaine J. Yarrington
Blaine Yarrington became president of the National 4-H Service Committee in 1971, serving through 1974. Yarrington brought to the presidency a strong background of corporate, civic and community leadership. He already had a strong working knowledge of the 4-H program gained through the company-sponsored American Oil Foundation's 27 years of association with the Committee as sponsor of the 4-H Petroleum Power program.
Yarrington, who came from St. Joseph, Missouri, joined Standard Oil (Indiana) at St. Joseph in 1938. He advanced through a series of positions in marketing, manufacturing, research and product transportation and became president of American Oil Company early in 1970.
In Chicago, at the time of becoming chairman of the National Committee, Mr. Yarrington also was serving as a director of the Association of Commerce and Industry, of the Field Museum of Natural History, of Junior Achievement, the Alliance of Businessmen, of Illinois Manufacturers Association, and on the boards of two suburban banks.
The following article appeared in the June/July issue of National 4-H News:
Service Committee Starts Second Half-Century with New President!
National 4-H Service Committee, observing its 50th anniversary this year, looks to its second half-century of service to 4-H with a new president, Blaine J. Yarrington, American Oil Company's dynamic, result-getting 52-year-old president. He was elected by the committee's board of directors on May 4.
Yarrington was dubbed "a force all marketers should know" by his industry's trade journal, National Petroleum News, when he was elevated to his company's top position in 1970. His election as National 4-H Service Committee's president assures that organization continuing able leadership in fostering a viable partnership between the private sector and Cooperative Extension Service in behalf of 4-H.
American Oil Foundation, supported by the company Yarrington heads, has enthusiastically cooperated with 4-H for 27 consecutive years. Helping inaugurate the 4-H Tractor Care and Maintenance program in 1945, the foundation now sponsors the National 4-H Petroleum Power program, which provides both rural and urban youth opportunity to acquire skills in operating and maintaining tractors, machinery and small engines.
Proudly referring to American Oil's support of 4-H, the national committee's new president says:
"We are interested in young people for the vital role they are playing and will play in creating future political, social and economic environment in which we must operate. I am proud to be a part of the 4-H program, and I pledge my full support toward continuing efforts to `make the best better'."
Operating personally on a principle perhaps somewhat similar to the 4-H way, "learn by doing," Yarrington started working for Standard Oil Company of Indiana, of which American Oil is a subsidiary, 30 years ago in a St. Joseph, Missouri, sales office. With his sights high, but not necessarily on the company's top spot, Yarrington says:
"I always wanted to get as high as I could, not necessarily for the trappings of success, as much as to just plain get ahead."
Says a former American Oil executive and co-worker of Yarrington:
"Blaine put together a smooth-working organization. He was willing to bend the rules to get something done if he thought it was important."
Yarrington himself says:
"Obviously you can't take the rules away when a great number of people have learned to live by those rules and almost don't know how to operate if the rules aren't there.
"On the other hand, you have to do something about it to make sure that rules in themselves are not so accepted that when everybody knows they don't really apply to the situation, they go ahead and apply them anyway.
"If a principle is sound, it probably should apply everywhere. But the techniques of execution should vary substantially, and people should feel free to stay with the principle and vary the execution on their own."
As president of the National Committee, Mr. Yarrington gave his view of 4-H and the committee's support at the 24th annual 4-H donors conference in September 1971:
"Throughout the 1920s and 1930s, National 4-H Service Committee developed and implemented two of its main philosophies: foster close cooperation between private enterprise and government; enlist business support for youth programs at all levels.
"For example, it was with the committee's help that two major appropriation bills were passed in Congress providing funds for extension work in agriculture and home economics. It was also with the committee's assistance that local businessmen were encouraged to channel their support -- in money, manpower and technical know-how -- to local 4-H clubs and their programs...
"The committee is an enabling body. Its members and staff and donor companies who support it, take pride not in grants or money or programs, but in how these things enable young people to grow and contribute to society."
Yarrington, American Oil Company's president, in recounting National 4-H Service Committee's past, and reflecting on its future and that of 4-H in general, said:
"It seems clear to me that there are at least half a dozen basic needs of young people -- common to farm and city youth alike -- that 4-H is particularly qualified to meet.
"One of these is the great desire to belong -- to feel accepted by peers. This drive produces such militant organizations as the Conservative Vice Lords and the Black P. Stone Nation. But under the right circumstances, it also produces Scout troops and 4-H clubs. Every young person desires recognition for his accomplishments. 4-H provides it with donor-supported awards. Young people want action and fun; they get both by participating in 4-H work programs and social activities. They feel a need to accept responsibility, and this they also find in 4-H.
"There is still another desire of young people, which goes unrecognized by many of us -- the desire to learn. Anyone can see in young children an insatiable urge to explore and question `why'... `how'. Yet anyone also can see how often that urge is stifled when youngsters move through the bureaucratic establishment of school systems.
"Educational leaders today are calling for change -- for new patterns and directions in education -- for a breakthrough in the rigid structure and formalized methods of public education. The commissioner of education in New York spoke recently about this need. He called for some fundamental transformations, among them a shift from a system geared to provide mainly knowledge, treating knowledge as an end in itself, to one geared to helping people learn how to use what they learn and how to work together productively."
Public education, I think, would do well to look at the accomplishments of 4-H -- and to make a study of its methods. Attention to the individual needs of members, for instance, has been a fact of life in 4-H, but it remains little more than a cherished dream in many schools."
Yarrington was one of the early promoters of the idea of merging the National Committee and the National 4-H Foundation. He initiated discussions with the Foundation which created a joint merger committee appointed by both organizations. Yarrington spent a lot of time with business and Extension leaders addressing concerns and questions about the merger. A joint Resource Development Committee led by Yarrington consolidated fundraising efforts as the beginning efforts of the merger. By 1981, Yarrington considered 4-H as the best example of partnership between the government and private enterprise that he knew.
Blaine Yarrington was inducted into the National 4-H Hall of Fame in 2004.
Omer G. Voss
Omer Voss - from Phillipsburg, Kansas - received has B.A. degree from Ft. Hays State University and J.D. from the University of Kansas. He was vice chairman of the International Harvester Company and joined the National 4-H Service Committee's board in 1967. Voss was appointed to the Joint Committee on Organization and Operation, which addressed the issues surrounding the merger of the National Committee with the National 4-H Foundation. As president of the National Committee, Voss played a major roll in leading the transition of the two organizations into what became the National 4-H Council... and, then served as the founding chairman of the National 4-H Council Board of Trustees.
A strong supporter of 4-H, Voss said: "Wherever you go throughout the United States, you will find that American agriculture and 4-H are still alive and well in our communities. 4-H is one of the finest examples of the positive impact that can be made through the partnership of federal government, private industry, and individual supporters."
In 1973, Mr. Voss received a National 4-H Partner Award, Extension's highest honor. He was inducted into the National 4-H Hall of Fame in 2003.
Omer Voss was married to Annabelle (Lutz) Voss for 69 years prior to his wife's death in 2009. They had two children, Jerol Ann Pohl and Omer G. Voss, Jr. The Voss Lobby at the National 4-H Conference Center is named for him and his wife Annabelle.
National 4-H Service Committee Board and Members 1921-1976
* - Board of Trustees
National 4-H Service Committee DonorsA listing of a majority of the National 4-H Service Committee donors can be found in the section on National 4-H Recognition and Awards Programs on this website.
National 4-H Donors ConferenceThe National 4-H Service Committee (and later National 4-H Council) sponsored the National 4-H Donors' Conference for several decades. This two day event traditionally was held at the Conrad Hilton Hotel in Chicago - site of National 4-H Congress - in September or October, prior to the Congress event in December. Donor representatives of the 4-H awards programs held intense sessions on current programs and plans in 4-H, plus it allowed the donors an opportunity to make plans for their specific sponsored Congress events with the hotel staff. Coverage of donors conferences can be found in the section on National Funding of 4-H Programs and Services on this website.
National 4-H Service Committee Professional Staff
In its over 50 year history, the National Committee only had two directors - Guy L. Noble and Norman C. Mindrum - two strong leaders, visionaries who were quite different from each other, but both aptly described as the right person at the right time.
Guy L. Noble, Director
Guy Noble, the first director of the National Committee on Boys and Girls Club Work, was a native of State Center, Iowa.
Prior to establishing the National Committee, Noble worked for Armour and Company, one of the first contributors to 4-H. Although Noble and others had been discussing this new boys and girls club movement for some time, it was the first club tour in 1919 that really launched the idea of what was to become National 4-H Congress and the National Committee on Boys and Girls Club Work. When Guy Noble set about organizing that first tour for Armour and Company he also opened it up to other interested groups. Young people sponsored by Swift, Wilson, Meredith and several railroads joined with Armour's delegation, and with state-sponsored delegates, brought the total to 211 club members for the first club tour. Club work was still so little known in those days, that Noble had trouble at first convincing the management of the 1919 International Live Stock Show to furnish free exposition passes to the eager young people. Thanks to Noble's keen thinking, planning and enthusiasm, the delegation of boys and girls were soon noticed around the city. Led by Armour's "Jackie Girls Band" the club members marched down Exchange Avenue to visit the Armour packing plants. They traveled by special elevated trains, they visited Marshall Fields, the Chicago Art Institute, The Chicago Board of Trade... as guests of Meredith, they saw the movie "The Heart of the Hills" starring Mary Pickford. Everyone agreed the first club tour was a great success. Businessmen had found a good program for helping young people, but an organization for carrying it out was needed.
Noble was persistent in his discussions with others who shared his vision for an organization, particularly E. N. Hopkins, who worked for Meredith at Successful Farming. By the end of 1920 Noble and Hopkins had secured George Farrell's support at USDA for a private citizen's committee and they started work.
Guy Noble, as a young man, was engaged in a successful career with Armour & Company, Chicago meat packers. However his commitment to the potential of what business could do to support the Extension Service and Land-Grant Universities became such a dedication that in June 1921 he arranged for a leave of absence from Armour and planned his future around a committee that still existed only in his dreams. He spent the rest of 1921 talking with Extension leaders and business leaders, many who were skeptical that the idea would work, yet by December of that year a group of major players met just before the International Live Stock Exposition and agreed to create the committee... with Noble as its secretary. The National Committee on Boys and Girls Club Work had been officially born. As its first and only staff person - with no salary for the first year or two - and working out of a borrowed room in downtown Chicago, Guy Noble's contributions to 4-H truly became a study in dedication, beliefs and visions beyond most of his peers.
He was a true pioneer in the concept of public-private partnership in support of the 4-H movement... a visionary in literally every aspect of the supportive roles the National Committee played during the first three decades of its existence - National 4-H Congress, 4-H donor awards programs and trips, National 4-H Supply Service, National 4-H News magazine, providing leadership support for major public funding through Congress, enhanced visibility for 4-H through press releases, network radio programs, sponsorship and creation of music and plays during the depression years, calendar program and speaking engagements. He steered the delicate "special" relationships between public and private partners (government and industry) through unchartered waters in practically every area that was a new experience to both the Extension System and USDA and to his board of corporate executives... both groups often moving at a different pace from one another, and not fully understanding how quickly or slowly the other operated. Noble wasn't afraid to think big. From the very start, he involved some of the very biggest corporate executives in America on the Service Committee's board, and was successful in getting the President of the United States - Calvin Coolidge - to be the Honorary Chairman of the board early on... a tradition that continued through future presidents for years to come. His position sometimes meant taking risks, and wasn't always accepted, but he was willing to take chances.
He was a showman and a promoter at a time in 4-H's history when that is exactly what the movement needed to draw in the attention of larger audiences. In some regards he might be seen as the P.T. Barnum of the 4-H movement as he gleefully lead the 4-H parade of delegates around the large arena at the annual International Live Stock Exposition, or confronted the media for more 4-H exposure, or visited Congressmen in Washington in requests for more financial support for Extension - but this is what he did best. And, like it or not, this is what Extension needed at that time in history.
The following article appeared in the April 1958 issue of National 4-H News:
BOARD HONORS NOBLE
Guy L. Noble, director of the National Committee on Boys and Girls Club Work of Chicago, requires by his request May 1, to be succeeded by Norman C. Mindrum, former Minnesotan, and well known for his administration of the National 4-H Foundation in recent years.
The Foundation was established in the outskirts of Washington, D.C., as a national shrine for 4-H leaders and members.
The action of the Board in choosing a successor to Mr. Noble had been under consideration for some months, and it was recorded in the following statement issued by John W. Coverdale, vice president.
"At a meeting of the Board of the National Committee on Boys and Girls Club Work held Friday, February 21st, Norman C. Mindrum was elected to fill the post of Director which has been held by Guy L. Noble since the inception of the organization.
"Mr. Mindrum will assume his duties on May 1, 1958, on the retirement of Mr. Noble. No other change in the Staff was considered by the Board.
"Mr. Mindrum was a 4-H boy; is a graduate of the University of Minnesota; has been a vocational teacher of agriculture and a county Extension agent and assistant state 4-H leader. For the past five years he has headed the National 4-H Foundation, which has grown substantially under his direction, particularly the International Farm Youth Exchange, which has been an important factor in extending 4-H Clubs and good will abroad.
"The Board looks forward to a continuing growth and service in furthering the 4-H Club program."
"Mr. Noble issued the following statement to the staff of the National Committee coincident with the directors' statement:
"Our Board of Directors at a meeting held today elected Norman C. Mindrum Director of the Nation Committee to become effective May 1. Consequently I will be with you until that time and we shall all work together as in the past for the advancement of the 4-H Club cause."
The Board also passed a resolution accepting Mr. Noble's wish to be relieved of his arduous post after serving 36 years, and recorded their admiration for the recognition he has won for the National Committee in furthering the interests of rural youth in this country and abroad. They further voted to honor him with the title of Director Emeritus, and ordered that their actions be enscrolled in a permanent memento to be presented him officially.
Mr. Noble also added that "because of the effectiveness of the National Committee has always been enhanced by close cooperation with the Extension Service, Mr. Mindrum's appointment should insure a continuation of this mutual endeavor to advance the 4-H program."
Noble was widely known and highly respected by agricultural and youth groups across the nation. In 1933 he received an honorary degree of Master of Agriculture from Iowa State College, and later received the Iowa State College Alumni Merit Award for advancing human welfare. He also was the recipient of the Silver Buffalo Award from the Boy Scouts of America. Noble was one of the original inductees into the National 4-H Hall of Fame in 2002. While a Chicago area resident, Noble served as Vice President for Farms of the National Safety Council, chairman of the Agricultural Council of the Chicago Association of Commerce and Industry, and was affiliated with Chicago Farmers and City Farmers of Lake County, Indiana.
Guy Noble passed away suddenly at Monte Vista Lodge, Lemon Grove, California, on September 22, 1967 at the age of 79. Mr. Noble had made his home in California since his retirement in 1958. He was survived by his widow, Adah; a son Newell of Chula Vista, California; a daughter Constance of Idaho Falls, Idaho; and six grandchildren. A special fund was established in his memory by the National 4-H Service Committee. The Noble breakfront continues to sit in the Farley Lobby of J.C. Penney Hall at the National 4-H Conference Center... right outside the Kenneth H. Anderson Gallery, and contains copies of many of the history books relating to 4-H through the years... probably all of them mentioning a guy named Guy Noble.
Norman C. Mindrum, Director
Norm Mindrum was born in Rushford, Minnesota and graduated from the University of Minnesota in 1942 with a B.S. in Agriculture. He earned his Master's Degree in Education at the University of Maryland.
Mindrum was a vocational agricultural instructor in Winona, Lewiston and Plummer, Minnesota, then becoming a county Extension agent in Winona County, Minnesota. Mr. Mindrum joined the Minnesota state 4-H staff as an assistant state 4-H leader in 1950. He served as the Executive Director of the National 4-H Club Foundation in Washington, D.C. from 1953-1958. He then moved to Chicago to become Director of the National Committee on Boys and Girls Clubs in 1958 upon the retirement of Guy Noble. He served in that capacity, heading up the National Committee until its merger with the National 4-H Foundation in 1977. He then became Executive Vice President and CEO of the National 4-H Council until his retirement in 1982.
When Mindrum became Executive Director of the National Committee on Boys and Girls Work in 1958 after 36 years of leadership by Guy Noble, he brought with him a complete understanding and knowledge of the workings of the complicated 4-H system from day one. Over the years he often played the role of a unifier and steadily maintained the delicate balance between the important roles of the public and private sectors in the operations of the National Committee. One of his first major changes in 1960 was a name change for the organization - from National Committee on Boys and Girls Club Work to National 4-H Service Committee. It was a fitting change that was well received by the board and the National Committee donors, as well as by the Extension System.
Mindrum was proud of the longevity record of the major donor corporations during these years - an average tenure of 19 years - and continuously worked at servicing the donors on a year-round basis and with an annual, strong National 4-H Donors Conference each fall prior to National 4-H Congress. He helped guide many of the sweeping changes in 4-H during the decade of the 1960s and was a strong supporter and player in the five years of planning that resulted in the merger of the National 4-H Service Committee and National 4-H Foundation into the National 4-H Council.
Kathleen Flom, a long-time co-worker and personal friend of Mindrum, said, "He had the foresight to see that the real-life experiences in 4-H had a definite place within the total arena of youth education worldwide." She remembered his "good humor and enthusiasm provided optimism to bring 4-H through the most difficult situation."
Mindrum and his wife, Dorothy, lived in the Chicago suburb of Downers Grove, Illinois during the years with the National Committee and National 4-H Council, as well as in retirement. He passed away at the age of 77 on June 6, 1995, survived by his wife, Dorothy, and four sons.
Norman C. Mindrum's involvement with 4-H spanned 35 years, playing a pivotal leadership role at the national level... excepting the keys to the National 4-H Center so it could begin operations... playing host to the 50th anniversary of National 4-H Congress, including President Richard Nixon... and sheparding the merger into the newly formed National 4-H Council.
Mindrum was one of the original inductees into the National 4-H Hall of Fame. He also received the National Partner-in-4-H Award "for his contribution, leadership, and support of 4-H over many years; his effective leadership in securing private and public support for 4-H; his encouragement and expertise in organizing the National 4-H Council; and for his continuing personal involvement and commitment to 4-H." The National 4-H Council established a special Mindrum Fund in his honor.
Kenneth H. Anderson, Associate Director
Kenneth H. Anderson came from Hudson, South Dakota where he was a 4-H member while growing up.
Both Noble and Mindrum had the good fortune of having Ken Anderson, Associate Director, as "second in command". Starting with the National Committee in 1938 and staying through the merger in 1977, retiring in 1978, Anderson provided 40 years of experience in which the Director... and the Board... could rely.
Anderson had been a state and county leader for three years and had spent a year in Washington, D.C. on a 4-H fellowship. During 1937-38, Ken Anderson was one of two National 4-H Fellowship recipients in a program sponsored by The Payne Foundation through the National Committee. The other recipient was a young lady from Vermont, Winifred Perry, who later became Mrs. Kenneth Anderson.
Ken Anderson was the National Committee's first staff member with Extension and 4-H experience. Arriving on staff in 1938, at a time when Extension and the National Committee were having some tensions, particularly with the awards programs and magazine, he hoped to bring a moderating perspective to the job. For the next several years, he and Ray Turner, USDA field agent for the north central states, informally acted as the liaison between the two organizations and managed to keep differences from growing into new confrontations.
According to the history book, 4-H: An American Idea 1900-1980 A History of 4-H, by Thomas and Marilyn Wessel, "Anderson had great admiration for Noble, but even greater commitment to 4-H. Years later, in the late 50's, when illness prevented Noble from making important decisions, Anderson decided that he would have to act. Anderson submitted his resignation to the Committee's Board of Directors and insisted that Noble would have to be retired. The Board never acted on Anderson's resignation, but agreed to retire the Committee's director. Anderson and others associated with the Committee realized that his action probably precluded his succession to the director's position.
"Noble would have been a difficult man to replace under any circumstances, but in 1958, the problem seemed even greater. Committee board members searched for a replacement from outside the organization in the hope that someone disassociated with Noble's retirement could heal any wounds left from the process. Federal Extension leaders were just as concerned that the National Committee remain a strong support element in 4-H. Consequently, when some members of the board asked Federal Extension Director C. M. Ferguson to find out Norm Mindrum's interest in the position, he agreed to act in their behalf. Home area ties and the challenge of directing the National Committee's programs convinced Mindrum to take the job."
Anderson remained on as Associate Director, working with Norman Mindrum for nearly another 20 years, until the merger. His relationship with both the many donor representatives and with Extension at all levels... and, with National Committee staff, made him invaluable. He was a key planner for the annual 4-H Congresses. He was a major fund raiser, seeking out new sponsorships as new programs emerged. He had a unique capacity to be on one hand a visionary with capacities for creating new ideas, new ways of doing things, yet maintained a strict discipline for tradition, for detail and for accuracy. (The National Committee had no better proof reader than Kenneth H. Anderson.)
During the 1960s Anderson traveled to Central and South America to assist the International Cooperation Administration in setting up 4-H club work in several countries and served as President of the Inter-American Rural Youth Committee in 1964.
Ken Anderson was involved with 4-H for nearly 70 years. In retirement, the Andersons - Ken and Winifred - moved from Elmhurst, Illinois, in the Chicago area, to Arizona where Ken served on the Arizona 4-H Foundation board and the National 4-H Council Resource Development Committee until his death in 1992.
Anderson was inducted into the National 4-H Hall of Fame in 2003 and has a large meeting room dedicated to his honor at the National 4-H Conference Center in Chevy Chase, Maryland. He received an honorary Doctorate of Agriculture degree from South Dakota State University in 1981.
The following is a listing of professional staff members who served the National 4-H Committee on Boys and Girls Club Work... and later National 4-H Service Committee over the years from 1921 until 1977 when the National 4-H Service Committee merged with the National 4-H Club Foundation becoming the National 4-H Council. Staff names, responsibilities and years they were on the staff are shown. As indicated with their entries, some staff remained on the staff of National 4-H Council following the merger of the 4-H Service Committee and 4-H Foundation.
(Note: This staff listing is not complete; new information on the staff is being added as it becomes available.)
Note: The National 4-H History Preservation team has attempted to make the history of the National 4-H Service Committee as thorough as possible. Unfortunately, many of the records have been lost or destroyed - 40 years worth of annual reports; board meeting minutes; donor files; national 4-H program winner lists, stories and releases; Congress programs; copies of national literature and other educational aids; and probably other memorabilia and records of which we are not aware. We will attempt to locate copies and restore files of as much of this material as possible.
Principal author: Larry L. Krug
Compiled by National 4-H History Preservation Team.
The 4-H Name and Emblem are protected by 18 USC 707