Former State 4-H Program Leader and founder of Honor Club, L. R. Harrill.

Lera R. Harrill, the first State Club Leader of North Carolina 4-H, was instrumental in growing the 4-H program since its foundation in 1909. His dedication to serving the youth of North Carolina 4-H resulted in many new innovations during the 1920’s and 1930’s, the impact of which can still be seen today.

In 1931, Harrill established the North Carolina 4-H Honor Club as a statewide 4-H service organization to further instill leadership values in selected 4-H members. As a part of his work, Harrill also introduced one of Honor Club’s hallmark events: the Candlelight Clover Ceremony. Held at the closing evening of 4-H Congress each year, then known as Short Course, the Candlelight Clover became one of 4-H’s most-loved traditions of youth members and adults alike. [1]

In 1984, Dr. James W. Clark, Jr. published a book titled Clover All Over that documented fifty years of exciting 4-H history. The following is an excerpt from his book detailing Honor Club’s first moments:

On Tuesday and Wednesday of Short Course the Washington and Springfield delegates in attendance drafted and approved a constitution for the proposed organization, and in a Wednesday evening session at the campus YMCA, the first Honor Club officers were elected. They were: Lena Early, president; Louise Elliott, vice president, Boyce Brooks, secretary-treasurer; and Ralph Suggs, historian.

Charter members not among these officers were Edmund Aycock, Olive Jackson, Vernon James, Julia Jones, Sam Raper, Aaron Peele, and Kathleen Mock. Miss Mock had served as secretary of the group during the drafting of its constitution. It was she who explained the new club’s motto of “Service” and the specific membership requirements to the assembled Short Course delegates on Thursday morning, August 6. To qualify, she said, a 4-H’er must be 16 years old, have completed 3 years of club activities with high standards, and have attended at least one Short Course.

The state’s former representatives to National Camp and Camp Vail who desired membership, she further explained, had come to Raleigh for the occasion. At the Friday morning assembly. Honor Club gave it first program, at which time President Lena Early inducted the first three elected members into the organization. They were Mabel Bowling of Durham County, Thelma Smith of Duplin, and Jim Turner from Iredell. Miss Early also announced that honorary membership had been extended to Dean Schaub and Jane McKimmon, while Elizabeth Cornelius, in absentia, and Mr. Harrill were to serve as honorary advisory members. The simple initiation of this varied new group was primarily the responsibility of charter member Edmund Aycock. [2]

From its humble beginnings, Honor Club has grown to over 3,000 members from across the state of North Carolina.

[1] Special Collections Research Center. Green ‘N’ Growing: The History of Home Demonstration and 4-H Youth Development in North Carolina. Retrieved May 30, 2017, from
[2] Clark, J. W. (1984). Clover All Over: North Carolina 4-H in Action. Raleigh, NC: NCSU, 4-H & Youth.