Learning about the rights and privileges, the duties
and the responsibilities of a franchised citizen

About Virginia Boys State

The Boys State Program

American Legion Boys State is among the most respected educational programs of government instruction for high school students. Each participant becomes a part of the operation of his local, county and state government.

What you will do at Boys State
Boys State Objectives
Program Highlights
Boys Nation
Physical Exam and Medical Form
Health Insurance

At American Legion Boys State, participants are exposed to the rights and privileges, the duties and the responsibilities of a franchised citizen. The training is objective and practical with city, county and state governments operated by the students elected to the various offices. Activities include legislative sessions, court proceedings, law enforcement presentations, assemblies, bands, chorus and recreational programs.

Flag retreat

High school juniors are selected by local American Legion Posts to attend the program. In most cases, expenses associated with attending this program are paid by a sponsoring American Legion Post, a local business or another community-based organization.

Virginia Boys State is a leadership action program, designed to develop a working knowledge of the structure of government and to impress upon the citizen the fact that our government is just what we make it. Along the way they will have the opportunity to learn the political process. Each level of government will be run by those delegates who are elected to serve. Instruction will be presented on the law and court system, parliamentary procedure and Virginia political history.

Physical Exam and Medical Form

All delegates must be able to actively participate in the program for the full week. Delegates must have a physical exam certifying that they are healthy and free of communicable diseases, and do not have any medical condition that would preclude them from the program. The medical form can be found on the Pledge Card and must be signed and completed by a licensed physician. The cost of the physical exam is the responsibility of the parents of the delegate. The Medical Form is part of the Pledge Card and can be found on the Citizens page.

Health Insurance Coverage

As stated on the medical form, delegates bring a photocopy of their health insurance card. The Boys State insurance policy covers delegates while at the program but is in excess to any and all other insurance. Those without health insurance coverage should search the internet for "Short Term Insurance Coverage" and obtain a policy. Attach a printed receipt to the medical form.


What you will do at Boys State

You will create an effective political organization, operating from the local through the state level. The government organization provides for such features as city and state elections. The citizens are organized into two political parties: the Nationalist Party and the Federalist Party.

Rear Admiral William Cobb US Navy (Ret)

Boys Nation

Two senators from each of the 49 Boys States represent their state at Boys Nation in Washington, D.C. each year, and two delegates from Virginia Boys State will have this honor.

At the event, each delegate acts as a senator from his Boys State. The young lawmakers caucus at the beginning of the session, then organize into committees and conduct hearings on bills submitted by program delegates.

Senators learn the proper method of handling bills, according to U.S. Senate rules. Participation in the political process is emphasized throughout the week, including organization of party conventions and nominating and electing a president and vice president.

The week of government training also includes lectures, forums and visits to federal agencies, national shrines, institutions, memorials and historical sites. On Capitol Hill, Boys Nation senators meet with elected officials from their home states.

Since Boys Nation began in 1946, a number of its graduates have been elected to public office, including presidents, congressmen, state governors and state legislators. Many others have been inspired to work for the campaigns of individuals seeking public office.

For more information

The American Legion, P.O. Box 1055, Indianapolis, IN 46206
Email boysstate-nation@legion.org
Website http://legion.org/boysnation

The selection process involves counselor recommendations and an interview process; two senators and two alternates will be selected. The program is held in Washington, D.C. during the month of July. All expenses are paid by the American Legion Boys Nation program.

Motivational speaker, Chris Skinner

Boys State Objectives

Boys State is a non-partisan program which encompasses the following objectives:

  • To develop civic leadership and pride in American Citizenship.
  • To arouse a keen interest in the detailed study of our government.
  • To develop in the citizens a determination to maintain our form of government, primarily by bringing them to the realization of how great it is to be an American.
  • To inculcate a sense of individual obligation to the Community, State and Nation.

Program Highlights

Boys State is a learning experience in practical democracy.

  • Citizens learn the political process through the election process for the offices of the mythical 51st state.
  • Each delegate is assigned to a political party which has no philosophy or platform until the delegates develop one.
  • Delegates use the basic laws and procedures of the Commonwealth of Virginia as a guide for their week.
  • Speakers from all levels of government provide valuable lessons for the delegates.
  • A highly qualified staff provides guidance and leadership.
  • Two delegates will participate in Boys Nation held in Washington, D.C. in July.


Within the Commonwealth of Virginia, for one week each year, a new state comes into being. The physical boundaries of this state are the limits of the Radford University campus, but there are no limits to its usefulness in promoting real life citizenship.

The youth movement known as Boys State was originally sponsored by the American Legion to counteract Pioneer Camps which were being conducted in the United States by the Nazi Freedom Foundation. Pioneer Camps taught that although the democratic form of government has served its purpose well, it was outdated and should be replaced by a fascist form of government. Legionnaires in Illinois decided to organize schools to teach youth the American way of life — AMERICANISM. They believed that youth knew the rights and privileges they enjoy under our form of government, and that they would never support any "-ism" except Americanism.

Paul B. Bates and fellow citizens of the 1st Session in 1939
at Old Dominion Boys State at V.P.I. (today Virginia Tech)

The Americanism Committee of the American Legion of Illinois obtained use of the State Fairgrounds for a week in June 1935. Volunteer American Legion counselors assembled at the Fairgrounds to clean and disinfect cattle stalls, set up borrowed bunks, arrange meeting rooms, purchase food, and set up a field kitchen borrowed from the National Guard.

They had contacted all the high school principals of their state and asked them to select their junior class leaders to attend the new government school to study the Constitution and the government of the state of Illinois. Two hundred and thirty five high school leaders arrived to participate in the government school. During that week, delegates were asked to suggest a suitable name for the program. The name BOYS STATE was offered by one of the delegates and unanimously adopted.

Other states followed Illinois in organizing Boys State programs. In 1939, the American Legion Department of Virginia, with the cooperation of Virginia Polytechnic Institute, organized the Old Dominion Boys State. The program was not held during the war years 1942-1945. Since 1956, the official name of the program has been THE AMERICAN LEGION BOYS STATE OF VIRGINIA, INC. It currently meets each June on the campus of Radford University.

The program of training has been developed on the assumption that youth can best learn by doing. The mechanics of government are patterned after those actually used in local and state governments in Virginia. Boys State is a true democracy in that all of its citizens may vote and are eligible to hold office. It aims at all times to make its programs of training in citizenship effective by creating a wide range of opportunities for participation in all forms of government.

The danger of Nazism no longer exists in today's world. Yet, our way of life is still threatened by forms of government alien to our democratic ideas as well as apathy among our own citizens. The American Legion continues to sponsor Boys State in the belief that young citizens who are familiar with the operation of our government will be better prepared to uphold its ideals.

Inscription reads "Old Dominion Boys State Sponsored by American Legion at V.P.I. June 18-24-[19]39 Blacksburg, Va."


Rardin's Review

Director Glen Rardin undertook a massive project to Boys State programs nationwide and to present factual information about each program. The intent of Rardin's Review is to honor and publicize each program as they continue teaching good government on a state and local basis, promoting better citizenship, and encouraging leaders to become active as they endeavor to make their state and communities better places in which to work and to live. Read the Virginia entry from Rardin's Review.

Virginia excerpt from Rardin's Review

Old Dominion Boys State, Inc. was first conducted in 1939.

Found and Director: 1939-1952, Judge Charles W. Crush. Past Department and Past National Vice-Commander, Lawyer, ex-memeber of Virginia Assembly, and Judge.


1953-54, James F. Barnes, III. Professor of Law, Washington and Lee University.

1955-75, W. Glen Rardin. Assistant Director, Virginia Division War Veterans Claims.

1976-, Rex Tillotson. Associate Dean of Admissions, College of William and Mary.

In 1956, the name was changed to The American Legion Boys State of Virginia, Inc. The program was conducted on the campus of Virginia Polytechnic Institute, Blacksburg, Virginia from 1939-63, the college of William and Mary, Williamsburg, Virginia from 1964-72, and Lynchburg College, Lynchburg, Virginia from 1973.

Boys State graduates are serving in local, state, and national public offices, as business executives, doctors, lawyers, educators, ministers, and leaders in all fields of endeavor. Former graduates include:

  • Linwood Holton, former Governor of Virginia
  • Richard Poff, 20 years in United States Congress, now Federal Judge
  • Joe Hollman, current secretary, Virginia House of Delegates, counselor Boys State, organizes Boys State General Assembly
  • Glen Conrad, Federal Magistrate, counselor Boys State and supervisor of program
  • Thomas Peake, President Boys Nation 1957 Professor of History, King College, Bristol, Tennessee
  • George Blume, Ph.D., Extension Service, VPI, Boys State Counselor, 19 years and now assistant director
  • Andy Bradshaw, Practicing attorney, legal counselor of Boys State for 12 years
  • William Vest, Retired Loan Officer, Veterans Administration, Boys State Counselor for 16 years
  • Malcom Minnick, Jr., Minister in charge of North American Missions, Lutheran Church

Boys State Alumni in many of our high schools are putting into practice information learned at Boys State about our two-party system of government (registration, caucuses, conventions, campaigning, and elections) in selecting their class and student body officers.

Freedom Foundation Valley Forge Award presented to the 1957 Inaugural Speaker, M. Carl Andrews, editor of The Roanoke Times, for the following editorial:

"How proud the sponsors would be if they could have seen what happened at Boys State this past week. I have seen both U.S. Congress and the Virginia General Assembly in joint session and must say that these youngsters, with the expert coaching of adult counselors, staged an almost perfect simulation.

I came away with the distinct feeling that Virginia and our Nation are going to be in good hands if these high school juniors are a fair sample of our boys.

For one I am grateful for this program. It is one of the finest and most constructive efforts by veterans to protect and project the principles for which they fought three ways."

Boys State 1939 — 248 delegates

Boys State 1979 — 690 delegates

Boys State 1981 — 750 delegates; 100 counselors

Ratio to male class members: 1:46

The 1982 Virginia Boys State was highlighted by the induction of Legionaires and Past Directors of Boys State: W. Glen Rardin, A.M. "Pappy" Renick, Charles W. Crush, Founder, Arthur James, and John W. Wicker into the Boys State Hall of Fame.

Schedule includes:

  • Recreation 3:00-6:00 p.m. daily
  • City Tournament play in softball, touch football, basketball and tennis
  • Extracurricular Activities 3:00-6:00 p.m. daily
  • CPR, Better Speaking and Parliamentary Law


Read Entire Review [PDF]

Learn more about Virginia Boys State by exploring these pages:

American Legion Boys State Hall of Fame (1982 - present)

Virginia Boys State Governors (1939 - present)

Boys Nation Senators (1946 - present)

Boys State Best City Winners (1965 - present)

Boys State Directors (1939 - present)

In Memoriam

Boys State Online Archives (2010 - present)