Patriotic American Youth (PAY) was founded in 1961 in Jackson. The first edition of the group’s monthly newsletter, Pay Day, announced that it sought to provide leadership development for young people opposed to communist encroachment. According to PAY’s founders, one of the most glaring examples of communist activity was Mississippi’s burgeoning civil rights movement. According to PAY’s student president, George Monroe of the University of Mississippi, the movement signaled a “war” that was “destroying . . . the very roots of American civilization.” Contrary to the thinking of what Monroe described as “liberal welfare do-gooders . . . America was built over a period of many years with the sweat and blood of many people, people young like you and I, people who were willing to lay down their lives, their fortunes, and their sacred honors so that we might have freedom.” This unironic statement willfully ignored the fact that the black movement for civil rights was seeking to claim the freedom owed to those whose sweat and blood built the nation.
PAY’s first high school chapter was organized in Itta Bena, and the state office was located in Jackson’s War Memorial building. In 1968 the organization had five thousand high school and college members. The group ran the Freedom Book Store on State Street in Jackson, disseminating anti-civil-rights pamphlets along with leaflets detailing communist infiltration. PAY sponsored an essay contest on “What America Means to Me”; showings of films such as the House Un-American Activities Committee’s Operation Abolition; classes in Hinds and other counties on the US Constitution; and lectures by Senators Strom Thurmond, James O. Eastland, and John Stennis.
The members of PAY’s board of advisers represented a who’s who of conservative Mississippi leaders. The group garnered support from administrators at the University of Southern Mississippi, Mississippi State University, and the University of Mississippi; the state judiciary; members of the legislature; and business leaders. The inaugural edition of Pay Day thanked the Mississippi State Board of Education for the “blessings conferred upon the organization of PAY.” Judge Henry Lee Rodgers of the Mississippi Supreme Court served as chair, and the state on several occasions provided PAY with financial support.
The organization had close ties to the Citizens’ Councils. Judge Tom Brady, a member of PAY’s board, was a leader in efforts to found the Councils following the 1954 Brown v. Board of Education decision. In addition, PAY’s executive director, Sara C. McCorkle, also headed the Citizens’ Council youth organization for a time.
- Charles Hills, Jackson Clarion-Ledger (19 December 1968)
- Mississippi Department of Archives and History, Sovereignty Commission Online website, http://mdah.state.ms.us/arrec/digital_archives/sovcom/
- Pay Day (November–December 1961)