Transition to Community-based 4-H Clubs

In the 1960s 4-H in North Carolina went through a period of transition after Governor Terry Sanford reorganized and revitalize the public schools. He consolidated the school system, supported the arts in schools, and refocused attention on academic essentials. Particularly important was the new emphasis on math and science programs following the launch of the Soviet satellite Sputnik in 1957. These changes impacted an increasing number of school based clubs and organizations, including 4-H.

Through the early 1950s each district of 4-H had gained its own club agent, who focused local club attention on activities year-round, especially those in the summer when schools were not in session. The 1950s also saw an increase in a number of summer programs and statewide 4-H camps. This increase in programming reflected an overall increase in club participation. In 1952 North Carolina had the largest 4-H membership of any state at 140,000. By the fiftieth anniversary of 4-H in the state in 1959, membership had grown to 161,000. Despite the increase in participation, summer programs and community-based summer activities were still seen as supplementary to the school-based clubs.

In 1960 4-H in North Carolina began what State 4-H Club Leader L. R. Harrill called the "great transition." The clubs entered a period of evaluation and adaptation, where new community-based clubs were tried at the county level and adapted for the larger state. Adult leaders throughout the state received greater training. Existing programs were altered, and new ones were developed. This shift to community-based club work corresponded with national trends of the 1960s, such as a shift from rural to urban programming and a refocusing on low-income youth in both rural and urban areas following President Lyndon Johnson's "War on Poverty." The other major transition in this time period was the integration of 4-H clubs. In North Carolina the white and African American programs officially integrated in 1965, although local clubs often took longer.

Readers may also be interested in our essay on the history of 4-H in North Carolina.


Clark, James W. Clover All Over: North Carolina 4-H in Action. Raleigh, NC: Office of 4-H and Youth, North Carolina State University, 1984.

Harrill, L. R. Memories of 4-H. Raleigh, NC: North Carolina State University Print Shop, 1967.

Wessel, Thomas, and Marilyn Wessel. 4-H: An American Idea 1900–1980. Maryland: National 4-H Council, 1982.

[author: Amy Manor]

Woman pouring water in a wash tub, preparing to do laundry Hazel Carris of Pitt County at her 4-H exhibit, "Drink Your Way to Health" L. R. Harrill and others launching the U.S.S. Tyrrell on July 10th, 1944 in Wilmington, N.C. L. R. Harrill revealing the plaque placed on an ambulance donated to the United States Army Medical Department in honor of former 4-H club members now serving in the armed forces
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