History of American Legion Boys State

The creation of the Boys State program is credited to Hayes Kennedy, who in 1935 was an instructor at the Loyola University School of Law in Chicago and Americanism Chairman of the Illinois Department of the American Legion and Harold Card, the Department Boy Scout Chairman and Junior High School instructor.

Hayes Kennedy and Harold Card became concerned about a project underway in the late 1930's called "Young Pioneer Camps" promoted by the Fascist Party to attract high school students. At these camps the Fascist Party would advocate the virtues of the Fascist system and the uselessness of Democracy.

Hayes Kennedy felt that a counter movement must be started among the ranks of the nation's youth to stress the importance and value of our Democratic form of government and maintain an effort to preserve and perpetuate it.

The Illinois Department of The American Legion approved Hayes Kennedy's and Harold Card's project and in June 1935, the very first "Boys State" in the nation was held on the grounds of the Illinois State Fair.

From that beginning in Illinois in 1935, the program swiftly spread among other American Legion Departments. By 1941, 34 states were conducting a "Boys State" program. Today, the American Legion conducts a "Boys State" program in 49 states. Hawaii is the only state that does not have a Boys State program. District of Columbia delegates attend either the Maryland or Virginia Boys States.

The Ohio American Legion's first "Boys State" program was held in 1936 in the cattle barns of the Ohio State Fairgrounds with over 440 delegates in attendance.

Since 1936, Buckeye Boys State has been conducted annually, with the exceptions of 1945, when World War II restrictions forced a suspension of activities, 1952, when a flood prohibited the use of the site at the time, and 2020, when the COVID-19 pandemic threatened the health and safety of members and Delegates.

Buckeye Boys State has had many "homes" since 1936:

1936 - 1941Ohio State Fairgrounds
1942 - 1943Ohio Wesleyan University
1944Otterbein College
1946Miami University
1947 - 1949Ohio Wesleyan University
1950 - 1958Camp Perry
1959 - 1970Ohio University
1971 - 1974Ashland College
1975 - 1977Ohio University
1978 - 2016Bowling Green State University
2017 - presentMiami University

Each year nearly 1,200 of the finest young men in the State of Ohio attend Buckeye Boys State. Since its inception in 1936, over 90,000 individuals have experienced the Buckeye Boys State program.