A Long History of Campus Activism

shutterstock,istockThe first College Republican chapter was founded as the American Republican College League on May 17, 1892 at the University of Michigan. The organization was spear-headed by law student James Francis Burke, who would later be elected from the state of Pennsylvania to the United States House of Representatives. The first nationwide meeting of College Republicans brought out more than 1,000 attendees where then- Ohio Governor and future President William McKinley gave a rousing keynote speech encouraging youth participation in the Republican Party.

McKinley was not the only future United States President with ties to the College Republicans. In 1923, former College Republican Calvin Coolidge ascended to the Presidency following the death of President Warren Harding.

By 1924, the organization was operating directly under the Republican National Committee as the Associated University Republican Clubs. In 1931, College Republicans caught the attention of President Herbert Hoover’s re-election campaign, who recruited members for youth outreach, in what was essentially the first GOP presidential student coalition.

For the next several years the organization operated alternately under the auspices of the “Republican National League,” “Young Republican National Committee,” and the “Division of Young Republican Activities.” In 1935, the College Republicans were merged into the newly created Young Republican National Federation, encompassing both college students and young professionals. College Republican operations continued under the Young Republicans until the 1965 founding of the College Republican National Committee (CRNC).

Over the following decades some of the most influential republican leaders of today held leadership positions within the College Republican National Committee. Future conservative leaders who started their political careers in College Republicans include: Karl Rove, Lee Atwater, Rick Davis, Charlie Black, Roger Stone, Grover Norquist, Morton Blackwell and Ralph Reed among many others. Under their leadership the CRNC grew to be one of the nations leading grassroots organizations.