American Legion Tar Heel Boys’ State
Basic Information
Catawba College
June 21-27, 2015


The American Legion believes there is no better way to ensure the survival of our republic than to train our young people in the ideals and objectives of American government.  By teaching youth to understand and appreciate the basic principles involved in the successful management of a democratic society, we can keep America strong and ensure freedom for future generations.  These are the distinguished and long-standing objectives of American Legion Boys’ State.

They are accomplished through a unique summertime program, one that emphasizes not classroom lectures or textbook learning, but participation and personal experience in a model state, complete with its governing bodies and elected public officials.

Boys’ State was founded, and its courses of instruction designed, to supplement the information taught in high school civics classes.  Boys’ State teaches that our form of government is good, but that its preservation depends on intelligent, informed, and loyal citizens in combination with an honest and impartial administration of government activities.

Young men chosen to be Boys’ State citizens can look forward to a challenging experience, acquiring a better understanding and deeper regard for our nation’s legacy of freedom and democracy.

American Legion Tar Heel Boys’ State

Tar Heel Boys’ State is a leadership action program.  Qualified male North Carolina high school rising seniors take part in a practical government course designed to develop a working knowledge of the structure of the government.  It is the aim of the program to impress the young citizens with the fact that the government is just what they make it.

Program Objectives

A program of this scope encompasses many important objectives.  Those objectives which the American Legion feels are most important include:

  • To develop civic leadership and pride in American citizenship.
  • To develop a keen interest in the detailed study of our government.
  • To develop in the young citizens of Tar Heel Boys’ State a full understanding of our American traditions and belief in the United States of America.
  • To develop in the young citizens a determination to maintain our form of government.


The final two objectives are taken from the Preamble to the Constitution of the American Legion.

  • “To inculcate a sense of individual obligation to the community, state, and nation…”
  • “To safeguard and transmit to posterity the principles of justice, freedom, and democracy…”


General Organization

The Tar Heel Boys’ State program is fashioned after the government structure of the state of North Carolina.  Political offices and agencies that serve the people of North Carolina also exist.

Tar Heel Boys’ State operates under a two-party system with instruction provided in the organization and operation of political parties at different levels of state government.

Tar Heel Boys’ State covers a period of seven days.  Enrollment varies from 250 to 300 young men.

Political Organization

Upon arrival at Tar Heel Boys’ State, the citizens are assigned to one of two political parties, the “Nationalists” or the “Federalists”.  The two parties are in no way reflections of the two major political parties in American government, but are established to allow instruction and participation in the two-party system of government.

An effective political system is created at Tar Heel Boys’ State to operate from the precinct level through the State committee.  A breakdown of the political organization is as follows:

  • The City
  • The County
  • The Judicial Circuit
  • The Legislative District
  • The Boys’ State


The government organization provides for such features as:

  • city, county, and state elections
  • party caucuses and conventions
  • keynote speeches, platform development, organization of component units such as senatorial districts, judicial districts, and legislative committees
  • local functional government such as County Boards, agencies, or courts


The Instructional Program

Tar Heel Boys’ State adheres to the basic concept of teaching government from the township to the state level.  The Instructional Program is carried out in three phases:  limited classroom instruction, functional activities, and general assemblies.  Approximately fifty percent of the program hours of Tar Heel Boys’ State are devoted to government instruction and practice.

Classroom Instruction is held to a minimum on subjects such as law, civil service, election procedures and parliamentary procedure.  Other special "schools" are conducted to inform candidates of the duties of the office they seek.  Following the election and appointment of officers, instruction in the operation of the respective offices is held by the citizens.  All citizens of Tar Heel Boys’ State receive instruction in Parliamentary Procedure.

Functional Activities start with nominating candidates for city offices and conclude with the inauguration of the Governor of Tar Heel Boys’ State.  This is the heart of the instructional program.  The functional activities (citizenship practice) such as elections, caucuses, conventions, operation of the courts and legislative assemblies are government in action.  These activities take a considerable portion of the time allotted for instructional purposes and constitute the chief means through which citizens “learn by doing.”

General Assemblies are for all citizens and are intended as a means to spur enthusiasm and spirit, inspiration, and patriotism, political fervor and a real zeal for the “American way”  Previous guest speakers have included Governor James Hunt, Secretary of State Elaine Marshall, Justice Henry Frye, former Governor James E. Holshouser, Jr., former North Carolina Democratic Party Chair Libba Evans, former Republican Chair Sam Currin, State Superintendent Mike Ward, U.S. Representative Bob Etheridge, former UNC football coach Carl Torbush, and former Wake Forest basketball coach Dave Odom.

Boys’ State Graduates in Important Positions

Graduates of American Legion Boys’ State programs are in positions of leadership throughout all levels of government.  Heading the lists is former President Bill Clinton (AK - 1963).  He became the first Boys’ State graduate to be elected to the top leadership position of federal government.  Former President Clinton, who also attended American Legion Boys’ Nation, credits the Boys’ State and Boys’ Nation programs for providing him with the incentive to seek a career in public service.  Other past and present federal officials who have experienced Boys’ State include former Vice-President Al Gore (TN.); Vice-President Dick Cheney (WY-1958) and Lamar Alexander (TN-1957); U.S. Senator Sam Nunn (GA).  Former Boys’ Staters who have served as governor of their respective states include: Jim Hunt and James Martin (NC); Michael Dukakis (MA); Linwood Holton (Va.), and Lawton Chiles (FL).