Our History


Henry Giessenbier


The Jaycees movement first started in 1915 in St. Louis, Missouri, when Henry Giessenbier and some friends in the Herculaneum Club first formed the “Young Men’s Progressive Civic Association” at the Mission Inn in South St. Louis.

In 1916 the YMPCA changed its name to “Junior Citizens”, from which evolved the nickname of “JC”, which was later spelled out to read “Jaycees”.  In 1918 the “Junior Citizens” became the “St. Louis Junior Chamber of Commerce”, and with the close of the First World War, the idea of a young men’s civic organization was catching on very fast in many other cities.

In 1920, in fact, the National Jaycee organization was born with Henry Giessenbier as its first President.

During the 1922-23 year, the U.S. Junior Chamber of Commerce’s Expansion and Development Committee was very effective in encouraging the establishment of Junior Chambers in other cities.  In 1923 the Committee reported that among forty-five other clubs throughout the country, there were three chapters in Florida: Tampa, Jacksonville, and Pensacola.

State organizations came a year later in 1924, when Missouri naturally became the first State Junior Chamber of Commerce.  Florida was only several months behind Missouri as the second state organization in the United States Junior Chamber of Commerce.  At the 1924 convention in Cincinnati, Mr. William M. Madison of Jacksonville (our second State President in 1926-27) was elected a National Vice President. In addition, Mr. M.L. Montgomery, our first State President (1925-26), was elected as one of the twelve National Directors.

In 1944, during the dark days of the Second World War, most of the Jaycees had been called to war.  At a national meeting it was suggested that some sort of living memorial be established to honor those who had given their lives in the conflict. Civic-minded businessmen in Tulsa offered to the National Convention a check for $100,000 to move their headquarters to Tulsa.  Another $235,000 was raised by a vigorous campaign to solicit a “Buck or Better” subscription from every Jaycee.  In 1949, a national architectural contest to select a suitable design was held for young men between 21 and 35, and soon afterwards final plans were drawn up.  Ground was broken and the cornerstone laid on Pearl Harbor Day, December 7, 1950.  Final ceremonies dedicating the Jaycee War Memorial Building were held August 14, 1951.

While returning from the 1946 National Convention, a young Jaycee from Columbus, Ohio, carefully articulated the guiding ideals of the Jaycee philosophy, and in 1947, the national organization officially adopted Bill Brownfield’s testament as the Jaycee Creed.  In 1951, Brownfield added what is now the first line of the Creed, affirming the importance of the Jaycees’ belief in God.

During the 1964-65 National Convention in Buffalo, the name of the organization was officially changed from “United States Junior Chamber of Commerce” to the “United States Jaycees”.  On July 3, 1984, the Supreme Court ruled that in the State of Minnesota, Jaycees were considered as a “Place of Public Accommodation”, and as such, were required to admit women as full members. The U.S. Junior Chamber of Commerce, believing that times had changed, voted on August 16, 1984 to open their membership to all young individuals.  On that date, a new page in the history of our organization was written.

Today there are more than 60,000 Jaycees in close to 1,700 chapters in the United States.


A movement began in Mexico City in December 1944, which eventually led to the establishment of the “Junior Chamber International” or “JCI”, with its first headquarters in Tulsa.  In 1955, JCI Headquarters was moved to Miami Beach, and on June 7, 1969, the new World Secretariat Building was dedicated in Coral Gables on the 25th anniversary of the international organization.  It was a fitting home for JCI, as the Coral Gables Jaycees had always maintained a wonderful international program.  In 2003 the JCI headquarters moved to St. Louis, Missouri.


There are chapters in Florida that are eighty years old – almost as old as the Jaycee movement itself.  After that period of time, however, very little is known about the origins of the Florida Jaycees.  We do know that Jacksonville, Pensacola and Tampa were all chartered in 1922-23, but no one knows which was the first. We have not even been able to obtain a photograph of our first President, Mr. M.L. Montgomery (1925-26) of Tampa.  Florida hosted its first National Convention in 1926 in Jacksonville, and over 1,000 delegates came from most of the fifty-seven clubs around the country.  During that year, new chapters had also been established in Lakeland, Fort Pierce, Sarasota, Miami and Sanford, giving Florida 12% of the National total.

The National Convention that was held in Miami in June of 1934 marked the first time sponsored exhibits were displayed at a convention.  That convention was also the site of the first convention parade, the forerunner of the modern “Parade of States”.

Even though much of the Florida Jaycee history has been lost over the years, it is important to know that your state organization has been very instrumental in many worthwhile projects.  Of course, there have been a countless number of projects run in local communities throughout the state that have had a tremendous impact on and for those communities.  In the 1940’s, the Florida Jaycees were well known for their activities, which supported the development and expansion of the Florida Highway Patrol. In addition, the Florida Pardon and Parole Commission were formed under the auspices of the Florida Jaycees and the Florida Parent Teachers Association.  This was a joint project of the two organizations with both state presidents being present at the signing of the bill in Governor Spessard Holland’s office.  The first Florida welcoming station was also a Jaycee project.

In June of 1946, at the National Convention in Milwaukee, Mr. Seldon Waldo of Gainesville was elected the 27th President of the United States Junior Chamber of Commerce.  Waldo was to die four years later at the age of 35, a victim of nephritis.  He was a man whose courage is still remembered each year in the Seldon Waldo Memorial Award presented to the five outstanding national chairmen.  In Florida, the Seldon Waldo Memorial Award each year recognizes the outstanding local chapter presidents.

The 70’s were the decade of change for the Florida Jaycees and probably the most significant change came in the area of the training of our officers and members.  In June 1974, the first complete President’s Manual was written and distributed.  In addition, in June of that year, the first President’s College for all local presidents and officers was held in one location, and the staff from our National Headquarters in Tulsa, Oklahoma, was utilized.  This concept was developed even further in June of 1979, when for the first time the President’s College was moved to the campus of St. Leo’s College.  The President’s College that year also became known as the Summer Officers Training School (SOTS).  This completed the gradual evolution of the training concept into a highly specialized training program for each individual officer in a serious classroom setting with many different Jaycee talents in Florida being used as trainers.  In addition to the changes in the training area, in 1975 the state organization began taking more responsibility for conferences and conventions.  Conferences and conventions are now a joint project of the Florida Jaycees and the host chapters.  This change as allowed many more chapters to act as hosts for these events and still have the necessary expertise available to them to be successful.

The organizational structure of the Florida Jaycees remained virtually the same from the early 1960’s to the mid 70’s.  During this time District Vice Presidents reported to Regional National Directors (RND’s) who reported to Administrative National Directors (AND’s).  All RND’s and AND’s actually served on the U.S. Jaycees Executive Board along with our State President.

They also had portfolios assigned to them in addition to their chapter responsibilities.  In February 1974, this all changed with the passage of what’s become known as the “Wimer Amendments” (Russ Wimer, of Naples, authored these By-Law changes).  At that time the state organization dropped the title “National Director” and replaced it with Regional Directors no portfolio responsibilities and State Vice Presidents with total portfolio responsibility.  Now, state candidates must choose a portfolio area they are interested in and are held directly responsible for that area by the membership.  Also at this time, the title of District Vice President was changed to District President.  This title was again changed in 1981 to District Director to eliminate confusion.

In 1975-76, the Florida Jaycees celebrated their 50th anniversary.  The yearlong celebration was spearheaded by the Florida JCI Senate with chapters all over the state celebrating the historic event.  An effort was made to coordinate the event with the nation’s bi-centennial celebrations, and was culminated at the State Convention by the attendance of many past state presidents. Because of the size of our state organization, it has been necessary for over forty years to have a State Headquarters to handle our administrative functions.  The State Headquarters was located in Jacksonville until 1950.  Since that time the permanent home of the Florida Jaycees has been located in Lakeland.  The first State Headquarters in Lakeland was built on city property in Munn Park.  However, due to a legal oversight involving Mr. Munn’s gift of the land to the city, the new building had to be moved from there to a location on Massachusetts Ave. (current site of Fire Station #1) where it remained until 1966.  During that year, the Lakeland Jaycees and other local supporters raised all the funds to construct a new headquarters facility on Lakeland Hills Blvd. This mortgage-free building, which housed both the Florida and Lakeland Jaycees, was dedicated on May 7, 1967.  In February 1975, the Florida Jaycees took a giant step forward by establishing, through the By-Laws, the Florida Jaycee Memorial Foundation as a separate corporation to construct and maintain a new State Headquarters facility.  A $1 per member assessment was passed to finance the undertaking.  The Lakeland Jaycees agreed to donate the proceeds from the sale of the old building to the Foundation so long as the new State Headquarters was built in Lakeland.  At the 1980 Winter Conference, an additional $1 per member assessment was passed in order to make the new headquarters a reality.  In 1981, the Florida Jaycees changed the name of the State Headquarters to the Chapter Service Center (CSC), which more clearly describes the function of the staff to serve the local chapters.  The following year, culminating ten years of effort, a new CSC was constructed.  The F. Tom Hayes Bldg, named in honor of a Past Executive Vice President, was dedicated on October 10, 1982.  This 5,600 square foot facility is now the administrative heart of our organization.

The Florida Jaycees have always provided their share of leadership to the U.S. Junior Chamber.  On three occasions we have been able to elect a National President.  At the 1979 National Convention in Nashville, TN, another chapter in the history of the Florida Jaycees was written. For the first time in thirty-three years, the Florida Jaycees elected a national president, only our second time. J. Terryl Bechtol from Pensacola traveled the country spreading the “Florida Influence”.  His dedication to the Jaycee movement sustained him through months of grueling travel to every state in the nation.  In a combined effort, the Florida Jaycees united from the far end of the Panhandle to the tip of the Keys to elect their charismatic candidate.

On August 20, 1984, the Florida Jaycees followed the U.S. Junior Chamber by amending our By-Laws to open our membership to all young individuals.  Shortly after that, Florida became the first state in the nation to merge the former Florida Jaycee Women with the Florida Jaycees. That year the Florida Jaycees led the nation in recruiting women members.

On August 1, 1987, the Florida Jaycees followed the U.S. Junior Chamber by amending our By-Laws to abolish all references to Associate Membership.  At the same time we increased the age limit of our members following the U.S. Junior Chamber to 21 (twenty-one) to 39 (thirty-nine) inclusive years of age.

In 1988, the Florida Jaycees amended their By-Laws to provide for a Long Range Planning Committee to assume the responsibility of creating and maintaining a rolling five year plan of action for the Florida Jaycees.  This committee is funded by the Florida Jaycees to meet twice during each Jaycee Year, with reports and recommendations being presented to the Florida Jaycee Executive Board of Directors.

In January of 1991, The Persian Gulf crisis escalated into a war between the United States, it’s allies and the country of Iraq.  It was on the eve of the United States Junior Chamber of Commerce Ten Outstanding Americans ceremony when war first began.  Several members of local chapters were called to active duty.  The Florida Jaycees, believing that Government should be of laws rather than of men, rallied behind our troops stationed in Saudi Arabia.  Local projects designed to show support to our troops were ran from Key West to the Panhandle.

In May of 1991, the Florida Jaycees elected their first female President since the Supreme Court ruling of 1984.  Nancy Peacock, from the South Miami / Kendall Jaycees, served as the 67th President of the Florida Jaycees.

For the first time in sixteen years, the United States hosted World Congress.  The Coconut Grove Jaycees were the host of this spectacular event that happened November 7-14, 1992.  Over 5,000 Jaycees from around the world attended this international event.

In August 1992, Hurricane Andrew struck Florida leaving thousands without food, water, and housing.  President Mike Probyn called for assistance from the Jaycees across the state.  The Florida Jaycees and other state Jaycee organizations were the first to assist in relief efforts.  In November 1992, the Florida Jaycees raised enough funds to support a transition home at Rodeheavers Boys Ranch.  The home is to serve as a home for boys entering their young adulthood and to bring them closer to real world situations.

At the National Convention in Orlando, Florida in June of 1994, the Florida Junior Chamber of Commerce walked #1 in the Parade of States as the best Jaycee state in America.  For the first time in Jaycee history, Florida, lead by President Eric Seidel, was ranked as the #1 state in America for every month during the 1993-94 Jaycee year.

In June of 1997, at the National Convention in Des Moines, Iowa, Eric Seidel of South Miami-Kendall Pan American was elected as the 78th President of the United States Junior Chamber.

In March of 1999, the Florida Jaycees undertook the refurbishing of our state headquarters.  Many Jaycees from around the state came together to rip up carpet, paint walls, lay tile and give our Chapter Service Center a new look.  This year also marked the 75th anniversary of the Florida Jaycees and a reunion was held in August 1999 with 21 past Florida Jaycee Presidents in attendance.  In June of 2000, at the National Convention in Chattanooga, Tennessee, the Florida Jaycees walked #2 in the Parade of States.  For the first time in Florida Jaycee history our great state, led by Karen Jaynes brought home the Most Outstanding State award, in the area of programming.

In 2002, the Florida Jaycees lead by William Douglass were #2 in the nation.  Additionally, First Lady Lisa Douglass’ Pet Project, “Serving Those Who Serve” was recognized by Governor Jeb Bush as an outstanding project in our state.  The project sent much needed supplies to troops serving our country.  The project was also recognized as the #1 statewide impact project by the United States Jaycees.  In 2005, the Florida Jaycees again walked #1 in the Nation led by President Lisa Douglass.