Fund for American Studies, Invented by a Son of Edison, Marks 50 Years

Fifty years ago, a former governor of New Jersey and son of famed inventor Thomas Edison spent his last years trying to counter the radical extremes of social change during the 1960s.

“In the next 50 years, we hope to continue to expand our programs and our influence.” –@TFASorg’s Steve Slattery

In response to some of what he saw on college campuses and in the streets, Charles Edison teamed with other conservatives in February 1967 to create a Washington-based educational organization that would become The Fund for American Studies.

“Activists were burning and blowing up buildings on college campuses. And trying to convince young people that communism was preferable to capitalism,” Steve Slattery, executive vice president of The Fund for American Studies, told The Daily Signal.

Though Edison died in July 1969 just shy of his 79th birthday, today the organization he founded hosts multiple programs teaching young people what it calls “limited government, free-market economics, and honorable leadership.”

The Fund for American Studies will celebrate its 50th anniversary Thursday with a luncheon featuring Supreme Court Justice Neil Gorsuch and a gala dinner dance where guests will include former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld.

Lee Edwards,  a historian of the conservative movement who is the distinguished fellow in conservative thought at The Heritage Foundation, said he is grateful for the work of The Fund for American Studies.

“The academic empire of the 50-year-old Fund for American Studies, with its 11 institutes that span the globe from Washington, D.C., to Hong Kong, attests to the old saw that a good idea can have exceedingly good consequences,” Edwards told The Daily Signal.

Edison was one six children. A businessman and inventor himself, he broke with a family tradition of Republicanism when he ran for governor of New Jersey in 1940 as a Democrat after serving first as assistant Navy secretary and then Navy secretary under President Franklin D. Roosevelt.

In 1962, however, he helped found New York state’s Conservative Party.

Joining Edison in 1967 to start what initially was called the Charles Edison Youth Fund were some heavyweights of the conservative movement: then-Rep. Walter Judd, R-Minn., also a physician and missionary to China; Marvin Liebman, a political activist and fundraiser who later became a gay rights advocate; David R. Jones, an educator who served as the fund’s CEO; and William F. Buckley Jr., writer,…

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