Father Edward J. Flanagan

Father Edward J. Flanagan is the founder and visionary for what’s known today as Boys Town. He had a dream that every child could be a productive citizen if given love, a home, an education and a trade. He accepted boys of every race, color and creed. Father Flanagan firmly believed, “There are no bad boys. There is only bad environment, bad training, bad example, bad thinking.”

Father Flanagan was born on July 13, 1886, in County Roscommon, Ireland. In 1904, he set sail for the United States. Following his ordination in 1912, Father Flanagan was assigned to the Diocese of Omaha. His first parish assignment was Saint Patrick’s in O’Neill, Nebraska. In March 1913, he was appointed Assistant Pastor to Saint Patrick Catholic Church in Omaha.

On December 12, 1917, Father Flanagan opened his first Boys’ Home in a run-down Victorian mansion in downtown Omaha. In 1921, the Boys’ Home moved to Overlook Farm, its present location near 139th and West Dodge Road. Father Flanagan and Boys Town became internationally known with the help of the 1938 movie, “Boys Town.” He became an acknowledged expert in the field of child care, and toured the United States discussing his views on juvenile delinquency.

The federal government called on Father Flanagan to help children both nationally and internationally. After World War II, President Truman asked him to travel to Asia and Europe to attend discussions about children left orphaned and displaced by the war. During a tour of Europe, he fell ill and died of a heart attack in Berlin, Germany, on May 15, 1948. Funeral services for Father Flanagan were held in the Dowd Memorial Catholic Chapel, located at the heart of his beloved Boys Town. Today, the church is the site of his final resting place.

“…The work will continue, you see, whether I am there or not, because it is God’s work, not mine.”

- Father Flanagan

Read more about Father Flanagan's life and legacy in "Father Flanagan of Boys Town: A Man of Vision," available from the Boys Town PressSM.