100 years ago today, an Irish immigrant, Father Ed Flanagan, opened Boys Town as a home for wayward boys in Nebraska. After arriving in the US, he became a social reformer as a priest—trying to change how America cared for its children. With nothing more than a $90 loan from a friend, he bought an old boarding house and began welcoming Omaha’s homeless boys, regardless of race or religion and even child criminals in prison for serious crimes. Soon they outgrew the home with 100 boys getting a new start, and even electing their own government. WATCH a short bio… (1917)

The 1938 film Boys Town, starring Spencer Tracy as Father Flanagan, was based on, and some scenes were filmed at, the now-famous home. Tracy won the Oscar for Best Actor and his entire acceptance speech sang the praises of Father Flanagan. The Catholic leader died in 1948, but his successors faithfully carried on his legacy—and Boys Town today still operates with the same principles and practices that originated with his vision.

MORE Good News on this Date:

  • The UN accepted John D. Rockefeller Jr.‘s gift of a six-block tract of Manhattan real estate to become the site of U.N. headquarters (1946)
  • Paula Ackerman becomes the first woman Rabbi in the US (1950)
  • Kenya gained independence from the United Kingdom (1963)
  • 30,000 women held hands and formed a chain around the 9 mile (14.5 km) Greenham Common in a peace rally against use of cruise missiles (1982)
  • Houston became the largest U.S. city to elect an openly gay mayor, when
    a large percentage of voters chose City Controller Annise Parker (2009)
  • A 6th grade boy, Gerry Orz, persuaded the California state government to declare December 12 as a “Day of Silence” to officially honor the victims of bullying (2013)

And, on this day in 1870, Joseph Rainey of South Carolina became the first black congressman in the U.S. House of Representatives.

Joseph_Rainey-congress-portrait

Born into slavery in South Carolina, he was freed in the 1840s by his father who had been allowed to work as a barber and split the profits with his master. With his savings, he purchased the freedom of his entire family. As a respectable leader in Charleston, Rainey joined the Republican Party and eventually won four elections to Congress, where he worked hard to gain passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1875.  CHECK out the book, The Epic Story of Reconstruction Through the Lives of the First Black Congressmen.