Samuel P. Goddard Papers

12th Governor of Arizona

Neighborhood Youth Corps

A great advocate of President Johnson’s Anti-Poverty measures, Governor Goddard enthusiastically supported and implemented a crucial element of LBJ’s program, the Neighborhood Youth Corps. The program was created to give underprivileged youths the opportunity to work, particularly over the summer months, in order to prevent delinquency, show the value of hard work, engender self-respect, provide hope for the future, and to instill a sense of confidence in the government. The program provided federal money to participating states, which was then funneled to public and private businesses and institutions for the purpose of hiring poverty-stricken youths between the ages of 16 and 22 who had applied and been approved for the program by the Office of Economic Opportunity. As prime contractor for the N.Y.C., Governor Goddard coordinated the needs of the counties, businesses, and institutions, and prioritized the allocation of funds to jobs, institutions and communities most in need.

During the summer of 1965, the inaugural year of the program, Arizona employed more than 16,000 qualified youths with grants of over $8.5 million. This resulted in the permanent placement of close to 2,000 enrollees in steady positions in hospitals, sales, as clerical and maintenance assistants, in the parks and recreations department, schools, the police department, in libraries, and in other public and private institutions. These institutions were able to complete and keep up to date many jobs that otherwise would not have been done, and were given the opportunity to attract, inspire and train future employees. In addition, juvenile officers from around the state universally endorsed the program, as it had significantly decreased cases of juvenile delinquency statewide during its initial summer of operation. At least 25% of those hired for the program had a history of delinquency, but no problems were reported and their improvement was said to be outstanding.1 Inevitably, the success and popularity of the program in Arizona led to a substantial rise in demands for funds nationwide as previously non-participating states applied for the program, hoping to reproduce Arizona’s results. This dilution of funding, combined with the escalating costs of war in Vietnam, led to a drastic reduction of funds for Arizona’s N.Y.C. program, going from $8.5 million in 1965 to $1.8 million in 1966.2

The drop in funding hurt Arizona’s native populations more than any other. In 1965, Arizona’s native population had an average family income of $600 per year, a family education level of about 3rd grade, no schools on the reservations, and more than 80% lived in poverty. As a result of the cuts however, all N.Y.C. funds and programs were eliminated from the reservations despite several desperate appeals by Governor Goddard to the Department of Labor, the President and Vice President. The abrupt curtailment of funds from $8.5 to $1.8 meant that the program in Arizona would be a shadow of its former self and could only provide superficial assistance to a fraction of those in need. Pressure from labor unions, particularly the AFL-CIO, even forced the U.S. Department of labor to eventually cancel the program in several cities, beginning with Tempe in October of 1966 when municipal employees went on strike after the City Council refused to accept the union as a bargaining agent for city employees.3.

Governor Goddard correctly assumed that the weakening of the program, decreased funding, and outside pressures would eventually lead to its cancellation. He worried that the youth would then lose the belief that the program had engendered in themselves, society and the government. The loss of hope, opportunity and employment, combined with a loss of confidence in authority, Goddard feared, would lead to large numbers of frustrated and disillusioned youth out of work and on the streets, compounding already increasing levels of civil and social unrest.4

1 Harry Gin, Tuscon Youth Board Member to Jack Howard, Director of U.S. Department of Labor, July 11, 1966. Office of the Governor: S.P. Goddard 1965-1966, Box 39, File "Office of Economic Opportunity." RG 1 SG 19. Arizona State Library, Archives, and Public Records.

2 S.P. Goddard to Jack Howard, March 15, 1966. Office of the Governor: S.P. Goddard 1965-1966, Box 39, File "Office of Economic Opportunity." RG 1 SG 19. Arizona State Library, Archives, and Public Records.

3 Robert I. Melbo, "Federal Action Cancels Tempe Youth Corps Unit," Arizona Republic, October 28, 1966, p. 1.

4 Ibid.

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