"Democracy must be learned by each generation."

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  • Milestones

  • Alumni

  • History

  • Board of Directors

The Alabama YMCA Youth Legislature is a program promoted and developed through the Tri-Hi-Y, Hi-Y and Government Clubs of the YMCA. It is a sound, educational approach to the development of citizen participation in the democratic government by providing opportunities to high school youth to study public government through a model legislative program.

The Hi-Y Clubs and Government Clubs have been chosen as the media through which the program is organized because these entities offer the best source of potential youth leadership in the appropriate age group. Hi-Y and Government Clubs have the stability, experience, motivation and purpose necessary as an incubator for Youth Legislature participation, and their regimen of regular meetings lends itself to the study and discussion of public affairs.

Since its first Session in 1949, the Alabama YMCA Youth Legislature has met annually, serving approximately 500-600 students in each of its Sessions. It is procedurally designed so as to be a replica of the Alabama Legislature.

The Youth Legislature Board of Directors maintains a strict philosophy that no aspect of the regular legislative pattern is to be changed or abridged.

Youth Legislature officials are elected and preside according to rules adopted, as closely as possible, to reflect the actual rules in force in the Alabama Legislature.

Bills are drafted in local clubs and brought to the State Capital for consideration and debate. Thus, delegates to Youth Legislature attain an actual experience in the legislative process, and obtain a better understanding of the complexities of the legislative process and parliamentary procedure.

December, 1948: Selma YMCA calls a meeting from which the Alabama YMCA Youth Legislature is born.
1949: First Alabama YMCA Youth Legislature meets at the State Capitol, in Montgomery. The first Session features only a unicameral body.
1957: Julie Griffen, of Columbus, is elected Speaker of the House, thereby becoming the first elected female officer of Youth Legislature.
1967: Alabama Youth Legislator Michal Hart Hillman proposes a National Youth Congress and what will become the YMCA Youth Conference on National Affairs is born.
1973: Vice-President Spiro Agnew makes the keynote speech for the 25th Anniversary at Garrett Coliseum.
1976: Marti Pearson, of Huntsville, receives the first Betty Carr Award for dedication to the program.
1979: Youth Judicial Program begins.
1985: First Youth Governor elected to serve for a full year, rather than just during the Session.
1986-1991: "Y Witness News", a television program run by Youth Legislature delegates, airs, beginning on Montgomery NBC affiliate WSFA-TV.
1987: Separate program for first-year delegates begins.
1987: Judith Fulcher, of Huntsville, receives the first Bill Barringer Scholarship.
1989: Youth Judicial separates from the Youth Legislature program.
1991: Nathan Ballard, of Auburn, becomes the first delegate elected Youth Legislature Governor on a write-in vote.
1992: Lobbyist program begins.
1992: Supreme Court returns to Youth Legislature. Justices begin ruling on constitutionality of legislation.
1993: Nancy King Dennis receives the first Meritorious Service Award for adult service to Youth Legislature.
1994: Alabama YMCA Youth Legislature holds nation's first Special Session. The Special Session was called by Youth Legislature Governor Turner Inscoe, of Montgomery, to consider education reform legislation.
1995: Youth Legislature Election Commission begins to oversee campaigns. A representative from every district under the leadership of the Youth Secretary of State, audits campaign expense reports and investigates complaints and inquiries about election procedures.
1996: Conceived and created in 1995, the first Collegiate Legislature meets.
1996: Youth Legislature Electoral College Delegates elect separate Supreme Court to serve during Youth Legislature.
1998: Alabama YMCA Youth Legislature celebrates its 50th Anniversary.
2008: Alabama YMCA Youth Legislature celebrates its 60th Anniversary.

Since its first Session in 1949, the Alabama YMCA Youth Legislature has produced many leaders, in all walks of life.

Below is a listing of just some Youth Legislature Alumni of Distinction. We welcome any suggestions for additions to this list.

Joe Rodgers: 1952 Youth Legislature Senator. Later served as United States Ambassador to France in the Reagan Administration.

Richard Holder: Youth Legislature Delegate from Montgomery. Later became President of Reynolds Metals.

Toni Tennille: 1959 Youth Legislature House Delegate. Noted singer of the "Captain & Tennille" duo, popular in the 1970's.

James Vickery: 1960 Jere Hardy Award winner. Former President of the University of Montevallo. Currently, serves as a Professor at Troy State University.

Judge Bernard Harwood: Circuit Judge, Tuscaloosa County.

Jim Campbell: Youth Legislature Floor Leader, then Majority Leader. Served in the Alabama House of Representatives, 1978-1994, and was Speaker Pro- Tempore of the House, 1987-1994. Currently practices law in Anniston.

James Anderson: Past Chairman, Alabama Ethics Commission.

Colonel Mike Sullivan: Former Director, Alabama Department of Public Safety.

Judge Sharon Yates: Justice, Alabama Court of Civil Appeals.

Cleo Thomas: 1973 Youth Legislature Senate Floor Leader. First African-American SGA President of the University of Alabama. Currently serves on the Board of Trustees of the University of Alabama.

Stephanie Wolfe Bell: 1975 House Jere Hardy Award recipient, and also awarded for Best Bill in that year. Currently serving on the State Board of Education.

Lamar Higgins: 1977 Youth Legislature Lieutenant Governor. Currently is a lobbyist with Fine, Geddie & Associates in Montgomery.

Ken Mullinax: 1977 Youth Legislature Speaker of the House. Currently serves as Press Secretary to United States Representative Earl Hilliard (D-Birmingham).

Caroline McDonald Aderholt: 1986 Youth Legislature Speaker of the House. Wife of United States Representative Robert Aderholt (R- Haleyville).

Porter Bannister: 1989 Youth Legislature Lieutenant Governor. Former Assistant Finance Director to the Governor. Currently serving as a lobbyist for the Business Council of Alabama.

David Parsons: Commissioner, Alabama Department of Insurance.

Winston Tucker: 1992 Youth Legislature Speaker of the House. First Collegiate Legislature Speaker of the House. SGA President, Auburn University. Currently, a student at Fordham University Law School.

Juli Verma: 1997 Jere Hardy Senate Award recipient. 1998 Alabama Junior Miss. Currently a student at the University of Virginia, and serves on the collegiate staff for Youth Legislature.

Alabama adopted the concept for a mock state government program for high school students from its sister state of Georgia, then quickly positioned itself as a leader for Youth Legislature programs throughout the nation.

The YMCA Youth Conference on National Affairs was born of an idea first proposed during a planning session of the Alabama YMCA Youth Legislature. Indeed, Alabama helped start Youth In Government programs in Florida and Tennessee.

Alabama is the only state Youth Legislature to hold an electoral college, wherein delegates from various districts come together to elect candidates for major offices. Alabama also can claim the nation's first Youth Legislature Special Session and the country's first Youth Legislature program for college students, the Collegiate Legislature.

The distinctive history of the YMCA Youth Legislature began in December, 1948, when the Selma YMCA, under the leadership of Paul Grist and Jere Hardy, invited Hi-Y and Tri-Hi-Y representatives from throughout the state to a special meeting called to study the success and benefits of the Georgia Youth Assembly.

From this meeting, the decision was made to begin an Alabama YMCA Youth Legislature, in which young people actually could experience how the legislative process works, and develop skills inherent in that process as part of their formation as future leaders.

Paul Grist asked Bill Chandler, of the Montgomery YMCA, to provide the program's adult leadership. However, from the very beginning the decision was made to make student delegates co-partners in all aspects of planning and operation. Indeed, today the Youth Legislature is largely led, year to year, by its student participants.

With the elements of a program in place, the first Alabama YMCA Youth Legislature convened, in the Spring of 1949, in the Hall of the House of Representatives in the State Capitol in Montgomery. This first body consisted of only a unicameral Legislature, with Bill Bell of Selma serving as its Speaker. In 1950, the Youth Legislature became bicameral with the separation of the body into a House of Representatives and a Senate. Also in that year, Youth Legislature elected its first Governor, Jack Noble of Montgomery.

Over the years, Youth Legislature has expanded to allow for a Governor's Cabinet, as well as the establishment of a Judicial Branch in 1979. Today, a Supreme Court sits concurrently with the Sessions of the Youth Legislature, to determine the constitutionality of its enactments.

In order for Youth Legislature to replicate the "real" experience of the legislative process, other student participants serve as lobbyists advocating a variety of positions, and pre-teen students serve as Pages in each of the two houses of Youth Legislature.

Also, from its inception, each house of Youth Legislature has a full "desk staff", headed by a Secretary of the Senate and a Clerk of the House, to execute the administrative functions of each house through the processing of bills and resolutions. Each house also maintains a journal of its floor proceedings.

Almost from the beginning, Youth Legislature has had as a part of its Sessions, the participation of student reporters, who write and publish Tomorrow Today, the official daily newspaper of Youth Legislature. For several years, Youth Legislature also provided its own television reporters who wrote, produced and anchored their own television news program, "Y Witness News". Hopefully, with the assistance of Alabama television and radio stations, this vital aspect of Youth Legislature will be reinstated.

Throughout its history, the Alabama YMCA Youth Legislature has been an evolving, innovative program, constantly pursuing the complete experience of Sessions of the Alabama Legislature, and beyond. For example, at an Alabama Youth Legislature Fall Retreat, in 1967, Michal Hart Hillman proposed a National Youth Congress, and under Alabama leadership a Southern Conference on National Affairs was held in the summer of 1968. From this regional convocation, the program has spread and presently includes the participation of 28 states in an annual YMCA Youth Conference on National Affairs.

In 1994, Youth Governor Turner Inscoe, of Montgomery, called a Special Session of Youth Legislature for the purpose of considering education reform legislation. In so doing, Alabama became the first and only state Youth Legislature to hold a Special Session.

In 1995, Emily Hawk and Michael Musselwhite envisioned a Youth Legislature program for college students, and by the next year the first Collegiate Legislature met. In four years, participation in the program has grown to over 200 delegates, and appears on course to eventually equal the popularity of Youth Legislature.

Several years ago, a concurrent Session was developed for first-year participants, to prepare these students for assimilation into the full Youth Legislature the following year. While the Youth Legislature holds its Sessions in the State House Chambers of the House and Senate, the first-year program operates as a unicameral body in the Capitol.

Over the past 50 years, tens of thousands of Alabama students have participated in the Alabama YMCA Youth Legislature. Many college student government presidents got their start as Alabama Youth Legislature delegates, and these and other former delegates have achieved success and prominence in various fields of endeavor.

Like most aspects of life, the Alabama YMCA Youth Legislature offers opportunity for those who choose to take it and make the most of it - the opportunity to learn about the legislative process, politics, issues and good citizenship. More importantly, the program provides the opportunity for students to learn more about themselves, how to respect other opinions and how to lead, as well as serve.

Just as cream rises to the top, so too is the Alabama YMCA Youth Legislature, like Boys & Girls State, emblematic of the best of its generations. The inherent inquisitiveness, energy, ambition and idealism of youth is just as present in today's Youth Legislature as that of 50 years ago. In an age when the lower elements of society capture headlines for cowardly crimes against their peers, and humanity itself, Alabamians can take heart that our state is rich in the bounty of a generation that counts among its number, thousands of young citizens of all races, background and religion, who seek not only the fulfillment of their own dreams of personal success, but are anxious to share a part of their talent and ability as their contribution toward the future of all Alabamians.

Mr. James Anderson, President
Mr. Jim Solomon, Vice-President
Hon. Bo Torbert, Jr., Vice-President
Mr. Ham Wilson, Jr., Treasurer
Mr. Bob McGaughey, Director
Hon. Sam Taylor, Past President

bulletMr. Charles Anderson bulletHon. McDowell Lee
bulletMr. David Avant bulletSenator Ted Little
bulletSenator Roger Bedford bulletMs. Kathy Long
bulletHon. Ann Bedsole bulletJustice Hugh Maddox
bulletMr. Bernie Brannan bulletMr. John Manolakis
bulletHon. Ellen Brooks bulletRep. Thad McClammy
bulletMs. Maggie Burn bulletRep. Bob McKee
bulletMr. Bill Chandler bulletHon. Oakley Melton
bulletSenator George Clay bulletMr. Bob Merril
bulletMs. Nancy Dennis bulletMr. Jack Noble
bulletSenator Larry Dixon bulletMr. Keith Norman
bulletMr. Joe Espy, III bulletMs. Ashton Ott
bulletSenator Vivian Figures bulletHon. Greg Pappas
bulletHon. Bill Fuller bulletJudge Gene Reese
bulletMr. Richard Gill bulletSenator Jeff Sessions
bulletHon. Pat Harris bulletGovernor Don Siegelman
bulletMs. Emily Hawk bulletMr. Tom Somerville
bulletMr. Bob Hill bulletMr. John Teague
bulletRep. Alvin Holmes bulletHon. George Wallace, Jr.
bulletRep. Perry O. Hooper, Jr. bulletMr. Richard Whitaker
bulletMr. Paul Hubbert bulletDr. John Winston, Jr.
bulletRep. John Knight bulletRep. Greg Wren
bulletSenator Charles Langford bulletJudge Sharon Yates

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