History

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A complete history of the United States Junior Chamber of Commerce (now officially the U.S. Jaycees) will probably never be written, for it would have to contain more 6,700 chapters--one for each local organization in the Jaycee movement. The dramatic story of the Jaycees lies in what has been accomplished by these thousands of locals at grassroots level in their attempts to build a greater America through developing better communities.

At the same time, it is interesting to trace the Jaycee movement to its beginnings in St. Louis, Missouri, for the basic purposes of the organization have not changed since the days of founder Henry Giessenbier, Jr.

The Jaycees resulted from the budding of a very simple but valid idea: the thought of utilizing the young manpower of the community for public service, with a firm conviction that youth is not a handicap for participation in municipal, state, and national affairs.

On October 13, 1915, the actual founding date of the Jaycee movement, 32 young men gathered at the Mission Inn to form the Young Men's Progressive Civic Association. Although the Jaycees evolved from the Herculaneum Dancing Club, which had only four members when it was originated by Giessenbier in 1910, our founder would not be surprised by the strength of the Jaycee movement today if he were alive. Giessenbier was a visionary, and as early as 1920 said: "I can not but think that the future will bring a total enrollment of at least 500,000 young men actively engaged in civic activities."

After returning from World War I, Co. L, Giessenbier had been busy contacting other cities with young businessmen's groups and spreading the so-called "St. Louis plan" of organization. Both he and Howard felt that a national body should be formed and on January 21 and 22 of 1920 a caucus was held in St. Louis with 29 cities represented. The USJCC was organized at this caucus, a convention called for the following June, and Giessenbier elected provisional president. The St. Louis group, which numbered about 3,000, was the hub of the new national organization. Twelve of the 27 cities represented at the June convention became charter members of the USJCC, and Giessenbier was chosen first president.

A big step was taken in 1935 when it was decided to cease the city-hopping and settle in St. Louis, after declining an offer of space in the Washington D.C., headquarters of the Chamber of Commerce of the United States. The USJCC headquarters remained in St. Louis until 1938 when they were switched to Chicago.

Before World War II, the USJCC became the first young men's organization to back Selective Service, and the war years saw 85 percent of all Jaycees enter the armed forces. The ones staying home topped all other organizations in scrap collecting, blood donations, and bond sales. A positive development to emerge from the war was Junior Chamber International, established at a meeting in Mexico City in 1944. Attempts to found such a group date back to the 1930's.

The idea of a War Memorial for the Jaycee dead was proposed at the Omaha War conference inn 1944. Tulsa was subsequently chosen as the site for this War Memorial Headquarters after citizens pledged $100,000 towards its construction. The USJCC moved its national office to the Oil Capital in 1947. Raising additional funds made construction possible and the cornerstone was laid on December 7, 1950 and final dedication ceremonies held August 4, 1951.

Of course, history has arched on for the Jaycees. In 1956, the United States Junior Chamber of Commerce officially changed its name to the United States Jaycees. Since then the organization has continued to grow and expand its chapter and membership base not only nationwide, but also worldwide.

The year 1984, saw a momentous turning point in the Jaycee movement when the United States Supreme Court declared that the United States Jaycees could no longer exclude from membership females. With this ruling, the dissolution of the U.S. Jaycee Women was inevitable with many of their members joining the ranks of the United States Jaycees. The transition from an all male organization to a mixed one has not been easy in some cases, but for the most part the addition of women has caused a reborn growth and spirit in many of the chapters and their achievements and accomplishments to date can only be considered a positive influence.

The Jaycee Creed

We Believe:

That faith in God gives meaning and purpose to human life;

That the brotherhood of man transcends the sovereignty of nations;

That economic justice can best be won by free men through free enterprise;

That government should be of laws rather than of men;

That earth's great treasure lies in human personality;

And that service to humanity is the best work of life.


History of the Jaycees' Creed
C. William Brownfield wrote the Jaycee Creed. Bill Brownfield was born on March 7, 1919 in Alliance, Ohio. He was one of seven children who grew up in a home surrounded by much love and humor. Feeding and offering clothes to many a drifter demonstrated concern for humanity in the Brownfield household.

Bill exhibited early Jaycee tendencies at the age of ten when he formed a club called The Band of Mercy. The group was dedicated to showing kindness to animals. Brownfield was heavily involved with church and social issues throughout his youth. He was a lay preacher for several congregations but was never ordained as health issues with asthma and allergies prevented completion of the required college degree. Instead, Brownfield sought to build his career running a coal mining operation and he did so with mixed success for many years.

His coal business took him to Columbus, Ohio where Ernie Wilson invited him to join the Columbus Jaycees in 1943. Brownfield quickly became involved in the organization and embraced the activities of the Jaycees. During World War II, a moratorium on conventions was in place due to travel restrictions and fuel rationing. Meetings were restricted to official delegates required to conduct business. In 1945, however, the lid was off and the National Convention in Milwaukee was open to all. This was to be Bill Brownfield’s first Jaycee convention.

While attending a Governmental Affairs forum, Brownfield inquired as to the Jaycees official position on the time honored free enterprise system. He was told that no formal policy or position existed. This planted the idea that it would be beneficial for an organization of the Jaycees stature to have an official policy of some sort. Brownfield traveled to Chicago and stopped by the National Business Office located in the LaSalle Hotel to research the existence of a Jaycee Creed or Statement of Principles. None existed. Brownfield thought about the need for a Creed constantly.

It wasn’t until July of 1946 that the Jaycee Creed was finally put to paper in a car parked just west of Junction City, Ohio. Brownfield consciously rejected the idea of mentioning God in the Creed as the Jaycees were not a sectarian organization but included men of all faiths.

The Jaycee Creed almost never went beyond the point of composition. Brownfield submitted his work to the local President for presentation to the Board of Directors for adoption. The President sat on the issue and did not plan to bring forth the proposal. After some arm-twisting and political wrangling the Creed was presented to the local board. After much analysis and debate, the motion to adopt the Jaycee Creed was narrowly passed.

With this success achieved, the next step was to go to the Ohio Executive Committee for statewide adoption. The Exec Committee again conducted lengthy debate and referred the proposal to the Board of Directors with a recommendation for approval. In September of 1946 the Ohio Jaycees enthusiastically approved the official adoption of the Creed as its official statement of beliefs. One week after this accomplishment, Brownfield and Ohio President Jim Riggs traveled to the Pennsylvania Board meeting in Lancaster and championed the adoption of the Creed. Pennsylvania became the second State Organization to officially adopt the Jaycee Creed.

Canadian National President Don MacKay was at the Pennsylvania meeting and he took the Creed home to Canada where it was adopted before the United States ever considered the issue. Consideration of the proposal was to have taken place at the 1947 National Convention in Long Beach, CA. Outgoing President Seldon Waldo opposed the adoption of the Creed and successfully blocked all avenues of debate on the issue. After the convention was officially adjourned, the newly elected Board of Directors met and President John Ben Shepard gave Brownfield the opportunity to address the issue. A motion was passed to refer the matter to the next Board Meeting in Tulsa, OK.

A familiar scenario of passionate debate took place at the meeting in Tulsa but the end result was the United States Jaycees officially adopted Brownfield’s Creed as a statement of its philosophies and beliefs. Fortunately, the International Organization was not a difficult hurdle and at the World Congress in Rio de Janeiro, 1948, JCI also approved the adoption of the Creed. Motion to approve was made by the Philippines (home of JCI #1, Joaquin V Gonzalez).

One of the heavily debated issues on the approval of the Creed was the lack of a reference to God. Shortly after the Creed’s adoption, Andy Mungenast began a lengthy series of communications with Brownfield on this subject. Many other Jaycees echoed the concerns voiced by Mungenast. Brownfield finally agreed with the call for a mention of God and in March of 1950, he found the right words to properly express his thoughts for the organization. Approval of this addition proved to be much easier that the original Creed proposal. The US adopted the change at the Summer Board Meeting in Tulsa and JCI followed with approval at the World Congress in Montreal, Canada (home of JCI #2, Phil Pugsley).

The 65 words of the Jaycee creed were finally recognized worldwide as the statement that best conveys the standards to which our organization aspires. Jaycees everywhere know and use this Creed, reciting it in as many languages as there are countries that share these beliefs.

The evolution of the writing and adoption of the Jaycee Creed was fraught with strife, political intrigue and potential pitfalls. The last assault on the Creed came at the 18th World Congress in Tel Aviv, Israel. The British Jaycees proposed removal of the Creed from the Constitution, reducing it to a mere appendix that may be referred to if so desired. Chile proposed changing the wording of the third line to Economic Justice Can Best Be Won By Free Men Through Free Initiative. Both of these proposals were soundly defeated and the Jaycee Creed remains one of the most integral parts of our organization.

The words have served to inspire and strengthen individual members, families and communities throughout the Nation and the World. A deeper knowledge and understanding of the Jaycee Creed serves to strengthen the commitment and sincerity of young people who choose to participate in the Jaycee movement.

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