What was the financial catalyst that kick-started the Child Welfare Foundation?
Fractional mineral rights to a large parcel of U.S. land. In 1952, Dr. Garland Murphy – a World War II veteran and practicing doctor who was then commander of the Department of Arkansas – approached The American Legion with the offer of a valuable donation. It came with a caveat, however: the donation could only be used to benefit children. This was a cause close to Murphy’s heart. He had been his state’s child welfare chairman since 1947 and served on the National Child Welfare Commission from 1950-1951.
Eventually, all parties signed on to the idea of a foundation to use monetary gifts from Legion family members to help projects undertaken on behalf of American children. As Murphy commented at the time, “Let’s look too for projects that we recognize as important, whose money needs are so small – yet real – that big donors hardly give them a second look and ‘can’t afford’ to meet their basic needs.”
The NEC approved the formation of the Child Welfare Foundation (CWF) in October 1953, and it was incorporated in Indiana in July 1954. Its very first source of funds came from deeds Murphy assigned to the foundation, giving it fractional mineral rights over nearly 10,000 acres in the Williston Basin in Montana and North Dakota. A large oil field had been found underneath the basin in 1951, and the entire area was undergoing something of a land rush.
CWF gave its first set of grants in 1955. To date, over $11 million has been awarded to national organizations. Murphy went on to serve as a national vice commander from 1963-1964. He died in a car accident in late 1966. At the time, he was the national commander’s representative on the Child Welfare Commission and was still a director (and member) of CWF.