Edward Joseph Flanagan (1886-1948) Omaha, Nebraska
Edward J. Flanagan, founder of Boys Town, came to Nebraska in 1912 to serve as an assistant pastor at St. Patrick's Catholic Church at O'Neill, Nebraska. A native of Ireland, Flanagan came to America in 1904 and became an American citizen in 1919. He attended Mount St. Mary's College in Emmetsburg, Maryland, where in 1906, he received a bachelor of arts degree and a master of arts degree in 1908. Flanagan studied at St. Joseph's Seminary in Dunwoodie, New York, and then continued his studies in Italy and Austria. After serving in O'Neill, he then became an assistant pastor at St. Patrick's Church and later at St. Philomena's Church, both in Omaha.
Working among Omaha's poor, he established and operated a shelter for unemployed men and later, in 1917, founded the Home for Homeless Boys. Because the downtown facilities were inadequate, he established Boys Town, ten miles west of Omaha, in 1921. Under Flanagan's direction, Boys Town grew to be a large community with its own boy-mayor, schools, chapel, post office, cottages, gymnasium, and other facilities where boys between ages 10 and 16 could receive an education and learn a trade. Incorporated in 1936, the village was featured in a 1936 motion picture starring Spencer Tracy and Mickey Rooney. Another movie, "Men of Boys Town", was made in 1941.
Flanagan received many awards for his work with the homeless and delinquent boys. He served on several committees and boards dealing with the welfare of children, and was the author of articles on child welfare. Internationally known, Flanagan traveled to Japan and Korea in 1947 to study child welfare problems. He made a similar trip to Austria and Germany and while in Germany, died on May 15, 1948. He was buried in the Dowd Chapel at Boys Town. Flanagan was made a member of the Nebraska Hall of Fame in 1965.