There’s a destiny that makes us brothers, none goes his way alone;
all that we send into the life of others comes back into our own.
Waiting for 1969-70 U.S. Jaycees President Andre’ LeTendre’s arrival in Tulsa was a new $70,000 “White House” in a fashionable neighborhood on the far south side of town. Another building project was frequently discussed during his term, but didn’t come about for several more years. The original plans called for expanding the Jaycee War Memorial Building to include either six or ten floors of offices and two levels of parking to create an “association center” for several national trade associations. This eventually shrunk to a two story, split-level addition, doubling floor space to 50,000 square feet and creating a new main entrance on the west side by the time ground was broken in 1972.
At the July 1969 executive committee meeting, a resolution was passed to change the age of entry for Jaycee membership from 21 to 18. The matter was ultimately deferred to the 1970-71 year where it was voted down at the 1971 Annual Meeting, but approved a year later.
Jaycees celebrated their golden anniversary year with a $250,000 budget and several special activities including a float in the Rose Bowl Parade and 50 million Burger Chef bags bearing the 50th anniversary logo.
The Metropolitan Conference of The U.S. Jaycees grappled with declining membership in some large-city chapters, a vote by the San Francisco Jaycees to “disaffiliate” from the state and national organizations, and a problem the Houston chapter was having with its state organization, which led Houston to experience severe financial difficulties.
The Houston situation was considered by the executive committee to be particularly embarrassing because it had nearly 2,000 members and was honored as the nation’s outstanding chapter at the 1969 Annual Meeting. The existence of the Metro Conference itself was a form of acknowledgement that chapters with large annual dues checks needed more service and attention.
Almost immediately after Hurricane Camille struck the Gulfport, Mississippi, area in August 1969, killing 221 people, Jaycees launched Operation Comeback. Soon, Jaycee chapters from every part of the country had collected almost more food and clothing than officials could distribute. Planes loaded with provisions sent by Jaycees circled the airport waiting for their turn to land, while on the ground trucks lined up for blocks to unload Jaycee-collected items.
LeTendre, bothered by a study showing that eight out of ten Americans were not involved in any civic activity, created a stellar new project called Do Something. Citizens in communities across the nation were sent cards giving them the opportunity to volunteer services in an area of their choice. President Richard Nixon endorsed the idea, saying he felt Do Something was the first concrete step he had seen to really get people involved in their communities.
Pepsi Cola jumped in with more sponsorship money than requested and Do Something was changing the course of volunteerism by early 1970. The meshing of private enterprise and concerned volunteers to solve community needs affected nearly 16,000 agencies and 509,000 volunteers during its first 10 months in 1969-70.
The big social question of the time, “How could a volunteer organization remain relevant in 1970?” was answered loudly by Do Something and Operation Opportunity, both large-scale social action programs. The president of the Sears-Roebuck Foundation said, “We are profoundly convinced of our good judgment in co-sponsoring Operation Opportunity. In all honesty, however, the impact of the program was not anticipated from almost every point of view.”
A federal Stop Rubella program to immunize Americans against the measles epidemic got a great boost from the involvement of Jaycees. One-third of the immunization clinics nationally had Jaycee assistance and participation; more than any other organization. This program would receive even more emphasis in the year ahead.
A manual was printed to help extend the Jaycee movement to institutional centers. Jaycees were unique among civic groups to establish chapters behind prison walls, with 74 of them in place by the end of the 1969-70 year.
Jaycees convened their Annual Meeting facing a budget shortfall. A slight decline in membership, combined with disappointing sales of 50th anniversary items, caused the Jaycees to consider – and pass – a dues increase of $1 to a new annual rate of $3 for each individual member.
The 1970 Annual Meeting also was a time of celebration, of course, for the 11,147 delegates in St. Louis, the city that gave birth to the movement 50 years earlier. The golden anniversary Parade of States was led by Alabama, based not on its place in the alphabet, but on its performance over the past year. Just as he had 10 years earlier, Richard M. Nixon delivered the convention’s keynote address, this time as president of the United States.
The delegates were in for another marathon election process to name The U.S. Jaycees president for 1970-71. Fifteen hours and a record-breaking 24 ballots were needed to elect Gordon B. Thomas from Toledo, Ohio. He would lead the organization back to financial and membership growth by the end of his term.
Seminars on human development (covering Operation Opportunity, Recreation & Sports and Crime Prevention/Law Enforcement programs), environmental control, and safety were held early in Thomas’ term to set the state presidents and program chairmen on the right course. At the International BB Gun Championships, a new wrinkle was added. For the first time, all competitors had to take a 100-question exam on gun safety and handling.
In early January, Thomas was the only civic organization representative invited to attend a high level briefing on the war in Southeast Asia. Among those making presentations or meeting with the group were Ross Perot, Dr. Henry Kissinger and Vice President Spiro Agnew.
Despite the recommendation from the hired public relations representatives of N.W. Ayer & Sons to expand the Ten Outstanding Young Men program to include women as a way of increasing publicity, the event remained all male in 1971. NBC’s “Today” show aired a live report on the event in Memphis, Tennessee, where a very emotional Elvis Presley was among the honorees. Fifteen years later women were added to the lists, and the event name changed to the Ten Outstanding Young Americans.
A myriad of state and chapter level activities brought visibility to the good works of Jaycees throughout the country. In Kansas, Jaycees sold peanut butter to generate capital improvement funds for their Cerebral Palsy Camp. An award from the governor was presented to the Lewiston-Auburn, Maine, Jaycees for their nine weekends of work grooming the banks of the Androscoggin River. Members of the chapter in Wenatchee, Washington, attracted national media attention, risking their lives by serving as undercover agents to expose their local drug problem.
Florida Jaycees effectively demonstrated that “the brotherhood of man transcends the sovereignty of nations” by collecting and sending more than eight tons of food, clothing and medical supplies to the Lima, Peru, Jaycees to help 100,000 refugees after a devastating earthquake. The Greater Dayton, Ohio, Jaycees organized a daylong clean up of Wolf Creek, removing 55 truckloads of trash, including a “No Dumping” sign. In Mobile, Alabama, Jaycees raised $15,000 to take 1,500 orphans and underprivileged children Christmas shopping.
Along with the joy in accomplishments, there was sadness throughout the Jaycee movement after learning of the death of Jaycee Creed author Bill Brownfield on February 5, 1971, at age 56, from multiple sclerosis. President Richard Nixon said, “By his death I have lost a good friend and the nation has been deprived of a staunch patriot and splendid human being.” Jaycees President Thomas said, “A bright light has gone out, the victim of mortal limitations; but that light, so unselfishly given by Bill Brownfield, continues to shine in the lives of those who learned and lived the Jaycee Creed.”
More than 23 years after he penned those remarks, Thomas commented that the full establishment of the national Do Something program was the most important accomplishment in 1970-71. “Success was evidenced by the heightened activity and the great number of programs and projects that occurred in all of the 4,800 chapters throughout the country,” the 51st president said.
Thomas passed on his office in the same way he received it – with a lengthy election process. Ronald G.S. Au, of Honolulu, Hawaii, endured 14 hours and 21 ballots to be elected the 1971-72 President. The keynote speaker at the Annual Meeting was Sen. Ted Kennedy, a choice that attracted several negative letters to Future magazine because of his actions surrounding the drowning death of a young woman in 1969.
Early in Au’s term the question of whether or not women could become members of the Jaycees was raised for the first time by The U.S. Jaycees Executive Committee. It was called a “passing problem” and the national legal counsel simply said, “The answer is no.”
Despite this, the Rochester, New York, Jaycees changed its bylaws to allow any young person (rather than young man) to become a member, earning its suspension from the national body. In March 1972, the executive committee recommended establishing a pilot program in certain chapters to accept women as associate members. The board of directors voted this down immediately prior to the 1972 Annual Meeting.
Among the new programs launched during the year was Let’s Keep It Clean, a campaign addressing litter and pollution, featuring comedic actor Don Knotts. The Greater Dayton, Ohio, Jaycees established a full scale-recycling center, which successfully recovered tons of materials and generated funds for their handicapped children program. Nearly 700 chapters emphasized health as their priority program and they committed an estimated 3.2 million volunteer hours toward health-related projects, generating $8.8 million in support.
On the international front, the Connecticut Jaycees built a 12-room school in Paraiba, Brazil. A hospital and orphanage in Cartagena, Columbia, received $150,000 worth of medical equipment, clothes and toys, courtesy of the Coral Gables Jaycees in Florida. Jaycees in Minnesota provided a bus, an ambulance and educational supplies for Jaycees in Uruguay to distribute.
Jaycees also were taking a hard look at their own organization and its future in 1971-72. They didn’t always like what they found. A Commission on Development exhaustively questioned people both inside and outside the movement to come up with nearly 30 recommendations for change. The suggestions ranged from active solicitation of minorities and “blue collar” members to establishing an office in Washington, D.C.
The commission was a bold response to perceived “danger signals on the horizon” and its report was adopted at the 1972 Annual Meeting.
Under U.S. Jaycees President Au, the organization experienced tremendous growth in sponsorships and government grants. What had been a fairly impressive $300,000 in this area during his term, turned into $1.6 million for use in the 1972-73 year.
At the 52nd Annual Meeting in Atlanta, Jaycees gave a resounding vote of approval to lowering the minimum age for membership from 21 to 18 – the first change made in the basic membership requirements I the history of the organization. Without formal recognition from The U.S. Jaycees, A U.S. Junior Chamber International Senate group was formed during the convention. It was officially recognized as an unaffiliated organization in 1974. The delegates also heard from an impressive array of speakers including Vice President Spiro Agnew, Sen. Hubert Humphrey, Georgia Governor Jimmy Carter and evangelist Billy Graham.
Elected to lead the way for 1972-73 was Samuel D. Winer form New Martinsville, West Virginia. He would face mounting challenges on the issue of female membership with lawsuits threatened from Philadelphia, Rochester, New York, and Washington, D.C., and an inkling that future government grants could be affected by the male-only membership policy.
For the first time, government grants were being used by The U.S. Jaycees for programming in the areas of alcohol awareness and treatment, environmental improvement, the corrections system and socioeconomic development. The grant monies in these areas totaled $960,000 for the year.
Venereal disease education received top priority among national programs. Many readers of Future magazine were shocked in October to read not only a highly detailed story on the subject, but also a related story on prostitution that featured the earthy (and largely uncensored) language of a streetwalker. Although the magazine switched from a monthly to a bimonthly publication early in 1973, it earned several honors including two from the International Association of Business Communicators for the best designed and most improved publication.
The U.S. Jaycees earned additional national awards by the end of the 1972-73 year. The corporation received the highest award of the National Multiple Sclerosis Society for being the organization that had contributed the most effort toward eradication the disease in the past year. The American Society of Association Executives gave an award of merit for The U.S. Jaycees’ extensive environmental efforts.
The first Jaycee Chapter for the mentally challenged was put together by the chapter in Laurel, Mississippi, at the rehabilitation center of Ellisville State School. Chapters across America were getting involved with the Hugh O’Brian Youth Foundation, to inspire youngsters who have just completed their sophomore year of high school to explore leadership and various aspects of the American way of life. In three months of fundraising, the Greater Barre Jaycees in Vermont raised $28,000 of the $36,000 in local funding needed to construct a multipurpose recreation shelter for athletics, concerts and exhibitions.
President Winer, a strong proponent of female membership, led his board of directors through months of examination of the issue before they temporarily closed the door in February by voting down a proposal to make the choice of admitting women a local chapter option.
The 1972-73 year saw Junior Chamber International become Jaycees International in a name change that followed the United States move in that direction seven years before. The nation was able to watch the 90-minute awards ceremony of the Ten Outstanding Young Men live on 225 Public Broadcasting System affiliates, helped by a grant form Ryder System, Inc. Lock it and pocket the Key, an auto theft prevention program, celebrated its third year as a notional project by passing along an FBI report that the number of stolen vehicles was reduced 4 percent in 1972, the first drop in 20 years.
American Red Ball Transit Company provided funding for Operation Red Ball and Jaycees distributed 5 million stickers for the home windows of children to guide rescuers in case of fire. An estimated 2.5 million hours were spent by members on environmental improvement projects in 1972-73.
The year ended with nearly 316,000 members and 6,680 chapters, both new records for The U.S. Jaycees. At the Annual Meeting in Minneapolis, delegates passed a resolution calling for the construction of the trans-Alaska oil pipeline. Another resolution approved asked the government not to change the status of those missing in action in Southeast Asia to that of killed in action for at least five more years.
It was after 5:30a.m. on June 29 when Rick Clayton from El Paso, Texas was elected U.S. Jaycees president for 1973-74. Among the issues facing him was the five-year decline in urban membership. Overall membership retention also was causing serious concern. Only half the men in the average chapter stayed for more than one year. Some postulated that Jaycees had become so serious in serving the needs of their communities and the nation that the fun had stopped.
To help ensure that Jaycees enjoyed a healthy home life, thousands took the Family Life Development program, increasing their skills in relating with family members. Jaycee chapters also were highly involved in the nation’s first all-volunteer, private sector endeavor in alcohol abuse and alcoholism prevention. Operation Threshold emphasized sensible drinking habits, attitudes and behavior.
Environmental efforts continued strong in 1973-74. Washington Jaycees organized 3,000 volunteers to rid 100 miles of Pacific Coast beaches of litter, collecting more than 12 tons of trash in the process. The National Wildlife Federation named The U.S. Jaycees as its Conservation Organization of the Year for its programs of environmental education and resource recovery.
Project Mainstream, operated with demonstration grant funding from the national Office of Economic Opportunity, was in its second full year of operations to help Americans living in poverty. More than $850,000 in grants were provided in its first two years for Jaycee chapters to address local anti-poverty projects. A chapter in Dayton, Tennessee, parlayed a $300 Project Mainstream grant into a $30,000 community mobile speech and hearing clinic. Adams County Jaycees of Colorado used a $3,600 grant to create a free mini-bus system for the elderly poor.
Major national events continued to attract favorable attention to the organization. The Ten Outstanding Young Men of America were honored in Mobile, Alabama, as a national audience again watched live on the Public Broadcasting System. For the third straight year, the Chevrolet and Frigidaire divisions of General Motors sponsored the Outstanding Young Farmer program, with the four national winners receiving the use of a Chevrolet truck for a year. The annual Governmental Affairs Leadership Seminar was highlighted by a 30-minute Oval Office visit with President Richard Nixon.
As the 1973-74 year wound to a close, Executive Vice President Ray Roper reflected, “ the future is a little clouded. There is no doubt that this nation needs our organization an its contributions more than any time in our history . . . we must be willing to make even greater sacrifices.
“It is time for our generation to lead,” he continued, “not only for our chapters, and in some cases, our communities, but it is time for us to lead this nation. Not many other people appear willing to accept the challenge.”
Jaycees attending the 1974 Annual Meeting in San Diego met the challenge of imposing a new, $5 administrative fee for each new member of a chapter along with an increase in annual dues from $3 to $4. With those items adopted, it was time to elect the 55th president of The U.S. Jaycees. David Hale of Little Rock, Arkansas, had a relatively easy march to the podium, winning in just four ballots.
Hale quickly set up a commission to study the ongoing issue of female membership. At an executive committee meeting in September it was reported that the Minneapolis Jaycees had amended its bylaws to admit women as full voting members. While no action was immediately taken against the chapter, it was later to develop into the case that went all the way to the United States Supreme Court in 1984. The legal counsel said that with the increasing number of chapters taking action on the issue “the urgency of bringing the matter to a resolution at the (1975) Miami convention becomes increasingly great.”
Eventually, the executive board of directors provided 1975 Annual Meeting delegates with three options on the issue and no recommendations. The first alternative called for complete open membership by all Jaycee chapters, the second was for a state option, and the third would have provided local option. All three alternatives were voted down, with a roll call vote on the local option for female membership failing by and 8-1 margin.
The U.S. Jaycees won all legal decisions handed down during the year regarding female membership, but at a great cost to the organization’s budget and image. Throughout the controversies, however, chapter continued to provide their members with improving programs of individual development, community action and chapter management in what was called the “Total Jaycee Concept.”
Twenty-five young men joined a new chapter in Mantador, North Dakota, a farming community with a total population of just 95. In their first six weeks, the members built a softball diamond in the town park, spearheaded a cleanup week and held a softball tournament. The programs of the Greater Hartford Jaycees in Connecticut got a big boost from the 1974 winner of its Greater Hartford Open Golf Tournament. Golfer Dave Stockton not only gave $5,000 of his $40,000 winnings to the chapter, he also pledged to return the remainder at $1,000 a year for the next 35 years.
Baltimore Jaycees marked their 42nd year of the Santa Claus Anonymous program by raising well over $200,000 to provide 54,000 needy children with certificates worth $4 each for toys or clothing. A similar cause was served in Phoenix, Arizona, in 1974 as Jaycees there staged their 44th Rodeo of Rodeos, the oldest continuous Jaycee project in the country.
Jaycees in Alaska raised $135,000 in a little over a month to aid refugees from Vietnam. Nationally, Project Mainstream activity by Jaycees reached 2.5 million poor and disadvantaged people in 71 communities. The venereal disease educational program developed by The U.S. Jaycees was the first national plan to be endorsed by the VD division of the Center for Disease Control in Atlanta.
Membership in Jaycees hit a new peak in the 1974-75 year at 323,000, with 25,000 joining in January, designated as Pride in America Membership Month. A new 16-minute orientation film, “Jaycees Help People Become,” got many off to an inspired start.
After the tumult surrounding the vetoing of female membership alternatives, the 6,000 delegates attending the 1975 Annual Meeting in Miami Beach gave Dick Robinson of Rochester, Michigan, an unusual four-candidate, twelve-hour first ballot victory in his quest for the 56th presidency of The U.S. Jaycees. He would bring the organization its third consecutive year of membership growth with 40 state organizations increasing their numbers and he would help to preserve Jaycee history by taking the initial steps toward establishing an archives and exhibition hall at the national headquarters.
Robinson shocked the incoming state presidents on the day after his election by presenting them a fast start kit and training session. Similarly, Robinson provided the organization with a new program, Springboard, geared toward early activation of new members. Under the expert guidance of Executive President Al Simensen, a number of administrative changes were made at the national headquarters during Robinson’s year, which markedly improved efficiency and lowered costs of services. Budgeted operating expenses were reduced by $163,000 and income rose by $166,000 while services and resources were expanded. Repeatedly, the executive board of directors complimented Simensen and his staff of 85 employees for their professional and tireless contributions.
Robinson earned the endorsement of President Gerald R. Ford for his “Get Involved With U.S.” theme and grass roots programming which prepared more than 25,000 citizens for increased governmental participation and involvement. The organization also mapped our plans for a number of local and national programs honoring the nation’s upcoming bicentennial.
An Open Membership Committee implemented a program to address the problem of female membership. It entailed a national educational effort, a pilot program in a few states to allow women to join, and allowing chapters with female membership to remain in The U.S. Jaycees by agreeing to a series of sanctions, such as loss of voting rights. Massachusetts and Minnesota were approved for the first two state pilot programs. Otherwise, the 1975-76 year was remarkably quiet on the controversial issue.
Another controversial issue, venereal disease, was successfully attacked by Jaycees in Elyria, Ohio. In September, their VD education bill was signed into state law, mandating it for all public schools. A 1953 law in Ohio had provided imprisonment for anyone giving VD treatment information to anyone under the age of 16.
More than 165 Jaycee Clubs and auxiliaries in Florida raised $115,000 for the Muscular Dystrophy Association in just six months. A year later, the sum would grow to $140,000, inspiring The U.S. Jaycees to adopt the cause as a national effort in 1977.
Another new development was the creation of the Ambassador Honors Program, recognizing Jaycees who have served the organization with the highest distinction and who have made the greatest contributions. Ambassador No. 1 was presented to a grateful Dick Robinson.
Nearly 8,000 Jaycees converged on Indianapolis for the 56th Annual Meeting, which featured a keynote address by President Gerald R. Ford and the appearance of a Jaycee delegation from the National Republic of China. They elected Frank Ziebell of Plano, Texas, and the Richardson Jaycees to lead the organization in 1976-77.
Under Ziebell, membership retention took a decided rise to nearly 85 percent, the best in many years. That helped The U.S. Jaycees set new records for membership, at 348,000, and chapters, with 8,600 by his term’s end. In 20 years, the organization had doubled its size.
For the first time, al 51 state organizations were represented at the International BB Gun Championship Match in 1976. Daisy Manufacturing Company was in its 15th year of sponsorship of the event ranked only behind the Olympics and the Grand American Trap Shoot as the largest competition in the world, involving almost 750,000 youngsters annually.
A July 1977 flood in Colorado’s Big Thompson Canyon destroyed the town of Drake and killed more than 100 people. The Longmont Jaycees directed 10 other chapters in coordinating rescue operations and aid for the area that included tons of food and clothing. Similarly, a month earlier Jaycees in Idaho jumped into action after the Teton Dam broke and flooded the town of Rexburg. After just one day of work, approximately eight city blocks were cleaned of debris, buildings up-righted and mud removed from basements.
The Roxbury-Dorcester Jaycees of Massachusetts cosponsored the nation’s first conference on teenage alcoholism in Boston, providing more than 200 youths a full day of workshops, films and group discussions. In Lowell, Massachusetts, a multi-story senior citizens residence opened with the name Fifteen Jaycee Place. Local Jaycees developed the proposal for $3.5 million in federal funding, utilizing skills in planning, real estate, law, banking, and public service. In Virginia, four chapters combined to raise more that $200,000 in three months to provide the Petersburg area with an emergency coronary care system and paramedic equipment.
During the year, John Deere Company began a long-term relationship as sponsor of the Outstanding Young Farmer program while Cities Service agreed to sponsor most of the 1977-78 Governmental Affairs programming, with Shell Oil Company funding a special Get Out The Vote campaign.
A relatively calm year, with steady gains in membership and retention, was climaxed in Seattle with the election of Bob Rushton, Marietta, Georgia, as the 58th president. Rushton’s strong personality and opinions would ruffle some feathers, but his term was distinguished with yet another year of record growth, a successful launch of The U.S. Jaycees’ involvement with Muscular Dystrophy Association and the opening of the organization’s first archives. It would also be the last year of calm on the issue of women’s membership.
In the summer, Jaycees in Birmingham, Alabama, opened a 1.5 mile exercise trail covering what had been a 12-acre, overgrown golf course. This outdoor gymnasium was considered a national model by the Jaycees and co-sponsors JC Penny Company and U.S. Department of Interior. In a year with the theme “Rushton’s Railroad,” Akron, Ohio, Jaycees appropriately put an innovative twist on the reliable haunted house fundraiser by creating the “Eerie Express,” a haunted train. The project made more than 10,000 people “tremble in the tracks” and grossed nearly $15,000.
The booking of recording artist Kenny Rogers by Jaycees in Sikeston, Missouri, for their 25th annual Bootheel Rodeo proved to be a success beyond anyone’s expectations. Rogers was so impressed with that community, he donated his Arabian stallion for the Jaycees to auction to help create a cerebral palsy treatment center. A few months later, Rogers returned to Sikeston and gave a benefit concert for the cause, generating more than $74,000. A national Cerebral Palsy Association officer said, “no group or organization anywhere in the United States has ever done what Kenny Rogers and the Sikeston Jaycees have for one C.P. affiliate.”
Jaycees in Summit County, Colorado, raised $30,000 to stage the 1978 Western Winter Special Olympics at Copper Mountain for hundreds of handicapped athletes. Chapters in Westmoreland County, Pennsylvania, combined resources to stage their fifth Westmoreland County Special Olympics, attracting 658 entries.
Nationally, a new cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) training program was launched with the sponsorship assistance of the American Medical Association, Allstate Life Insurance Company and Johnson & Johnson. Cities Service Company worked with The U.S. Jaycees to develop an energy conservation program and the Junior Athletics Championships Program was approved for the summer of 1979 by co-sponsors Post Cereals and Premier Athletic Products.
In its first year of national fund raisin g for the Muscular Dystrophy Association, Jaycees collected more than $700,000 and pledged to double that amount in the following year. This project quickly rivaled the annual selection of America’s Ten Outstanding Young Men as a dependable generator of positive exposure for the organization.
The federally funded Project Mainstream reached the end of its run after six years by earning recognition from Jaycees International as the finest civic involvement project in the world.
The U.S. Jaycees Foundation named 1937-38 national president Roz Rosengren to lead the fund raising efforts to implement a national Jaycees archives. He put the project past its $100,000 goal only two months after he took over as chairman. A ribbon cutting ceremony in January 1978 was attended by movement pioneer John Armbruster (only a month before his death) and nine past national presidents.
The 1978 Annual Meeting was held in Atlantic City, New Jersey, and Jaycees were the first conventioneers to enjoy the city’s new code legalizing gambling. A proposed bylaws change to allow each state Jaycee organization to set its own policies regarding women membership was resoundingly defeated by more than a 3-1 margin.
The delegates gave a first ballot victory to Barry Kennedy from Pawnee City, Nebraska, in a two-man race for the 1978-79 presidency. He started the year with nearly 376,000 members in almost 9,000 chapters, and ended it with slightly improved figures of 380,000 Jaycees in 9,200 chapters. It was the organization’s sixth consecutive year of growth and stands today as the largest membership numbers in the organization’s 75-year history. As he looks back on his administration, the 59th president believes his most important accomplishment was to involve more young people in Leadership Training Through Community Service, the organization’s motto for a long period. Today, Kennedy says, “we need to re-empower the member. Some of the greatest projects and programs have started as what somebody thought was a ‘dumb’ idea.
“Change will always be necessary to meet the needs of a changing society, but . . . giving the members the power to run the organization will make it relevant to the times,” he concludes.
Kennedy felt the winds of change during his term, but even the re-emerging storm over female membership was not enough to convince the membership to share its shelter. In July, he issued an official policy statement announcing the end of the three-year pilot program, which had allowed certain states to give women full membership on a temporary basis. He then served notice that chapters admitting women as regular members had four months to comply with the bylaw limiting membership to males of be subject to charter revocation.
The law firm representing the Jaycees in Massachusetts gained a restraining order prohibiting The U.S. Jaycees from acting on chapters within their state and successfully encouraged Alaska and the District of Columbia to take similar action. Meanwhile, the Minnesota Human Rights Commission filed suit against the Jaycees on the issue of public accommodation. The U.S. Jaycees counter sued the commission on the basis of the Jaycees’ right to freedom of association. This case ultimately would be decided by the U.S. Supreme Court.
With notable exceptions, however, most chapters stayed out of the fray and kept their focus on making an impact on their communities. Jaycees from Hooper, Nebraska, staged a series of bizarre races over a two-day period. Politicians, media personalities, ministers and other community leaders competed on camels and ostriches to the delight of 10,000 spectators who crowded into the small town.
The Easton Area Jaycees in Pennsylvania treated their hometown to a Labor Day Weekend Community Spirit Day with live music, contest, exhibits and a large fireworks display. Jaycees and Jayceettes of Southeastern Wisconsin teamed up with McDonald’s restaurants and 27 bowling centers for a Bowl for Breath fundraiser that netted $65,000 to fight cystic fibrosis.
Jaycee Chapters across the nation helped the organization keep its word to Jerry Lewis and the Muscular Dystrophy Association by doubling its previous year’s contribution, presenting checks totaling $1.5 million on Labor Day 1978. More than 2,000 chapters trained 4,000 instructors in the basic life support technique of CPR. It was estimated that 24 lives were saved and 80,000 to 100,000 people learned CPR during the year because of Jaycee efforts.
Athletic concerns also were attended to in 1978-79. The inaugural Junior Athletic Championships National Finals had 29 teams of children, ages 8-16, competing in Tulsa. During the year, the track and field program attracted more than 140,000 youths in 1,200 Jaycee communities. When the U.S. Olympic Committee approached The U.S. Jaycees in the spring about raising funds to support Olympic athletes, 60 chapters responded and secured more than $30,000 within two weeks of the request.
The 9,500 Jaycees who gathered in Nashville, Tennessee, for the 1979 Annual Meeting in June were, of course, happily unaware that their organization had reached its peak in terms of size and tranquility. They knew, however, that The U.S. Jaycees had lost financial ground during an inflationary era, which had dramatically increased the costs of providing services. As the delegates voted in a $3 increase in individual dues, they envisioned swollen coffers and more than 400,000 members in the year ahead.
We now know how innocently wrong they were. These were the delegates who didn’t let stormy weather and the official cancellation of the popular Parade of State stop them. Instead, they took to the streets with as many as six separate parades combing through Nashville’s downtown district, proudly sporting the costumes, bands and floats of each state delegation.
It would continue raining hard on the Jaycees’ parade in the decade ahead. But while social upheavals would test the resolve of the organization, Jaycees would continue doing what they did best – adjusting to change and improving America.