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Illinois FFA History      
Illinois schools have had high school agricultural organizations since 1912, and the Smith-Hughes Act in 1917 influenced the expansion of agriculture departments and their activities. However, the Illinois Association of Future Farmers of America was not founded until 1929, one year after the formation of the national organization, as a club for high school farm boys. Mr. J. E. Hill, the State Supervisor of Agriculture Education, was very instrumental in forming the F.F.A. He called a meeting of Illinois agriculture teachers in 1928, and it was there where he introduced the idea of the new club. The educators were reluctant to start something new; however, they met at the University of Illinois on June 12, 1929, and organizaed the Illinois Association of Future Farmers of America.

Homer Edwards was elected the first state president as a 16-year-old junior in high school. In addition to many radio interviews and speaking opportunities, Edwards had the privilege to sign the charters of 156 FFA chapters organized in Illinois that year. The Illinois F.F.A. had over 4000 members in its first year of existence. State dues were set that year at 25c per member. The first state public speaking winner was Ivan Peach from Walnut High School on January 20, 1030. There were three state offices: president, secretary-treasurer, and reporter. The state was divided into 12 sections, which was expanded to 15 sections in 1931-32 and 20 sections in 1939.

Membership in the 1940’s had grown to 10,787 in 348 chapters. Leland Glazebrook, State Reporter in 1938-39 and State President in 1939-40, attended the national convention in Kansas City, MO, in 1939. J.E. Hill bought two jackets and gave them to Glazebrook and another FFA member, the only two FFA jackets in Illinois at the time.

The first executive secretary, D.G. Daniels, was appointed in 1942, where he served for two years. The decade was difficult, for many members and advisors were being drafted into the war. At this time FFA chapters chipped in to collect supplies for the soldiers. 1943-44 State President Wayne Canterbury served only part of his term before he was drafted into the war. Glyndon Stuff presided in his absence, was elected state president the following year, and became the first National FFA President from Illinois in 1945-46. J. B. Adams was appointed Executive Secretary in 1944. In 1948, Kenneth Cheatham of Greenville became Illinois’s first Star Farmer of America.

The Illinois Association FFA reached its peak in size in 1949 with 464 chapters. In 1950, a State FFA Band was an added opportunity, and an FFA chorus took its place beside the band in 1952. A new song entitled “I’m In Love With a Boy in the FFA” popular among FFA followers.

During Korean War, 1951-52 State FFA President Richard Resler was drafted into the military, and a section president filled the position for the remainder of the year. The 1952 State Convention delegates amended the Constitution to add the state office of vice president.

The state was redivided for the third time in 1948-49 into the remaining plan of 25 sections. Two more Illinois FFA members served as national officers during these years. George Lewis was National President in 1949-50, and Harlan Rigney became the Central Region National Vice President in 1953-54.

J.B. Adams retired in 1953, and V. E. Burgener replaced him as the Executive Secretary. At the 1956 convention, J. E. Hill spoke to the members for the last time as their advisor. He retired September 1, 1956 to become full-time Director of Vocational Education. He appointed H. R. Damisch as Chief of Agriculture Education Division and State FFA Advisor. State FFA President Charles Wendt introduced Hill at the convention as one of the fairest and most honest men he had ever met.

In 1959, the first Communications Workshop was held, used to instruct section reporters in how to gather and release news in their sections. They were introduced to radio, television and press coverage, and the Journalism Department of the University of Illinois taught the workshop.

G. Donavon Coil became Executive Secretary of the FFA in 1960 and served in that position until 1969. In 1964, the Illinois Agriculture Association and affiliates (now identified as Illinois Farm Bureau and affiliated companies) started the American Heritage program. Winning chapters in that program are eligible to participate in tours to Washington, DC. In 1965, the New Farmers of America and the National Future Farmers of America merged, joining the organizations for African American and Caucasian members.

Female membership in the FFA had been a major issue since 1933, and women were finally allowed into the organization in 1969. Christy Carter of Carrollton became the first female to receive the State FFA Degree in 1970. Debby Fraley, Carrollton, was the first girl to be a state winner at the 1972 convention, winning in Poultry Production. Shirley Pearce of Flora was the first female Section President in 1973-74, serving Section 23. Michele Birkner of Morton was the first girl to receive the Star award in Agribusiness in 1977. J. Dan Lehmann became National FFA President in 1970-71.

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