In the 1950s and 1960s, Mississippians were looking for ways to teach children about communism. In 1961, the Patriotic American Youth (PAY) was created to involve high school and college students in the fight against communism. According to an official publication of the Patriotic American Youth, "the purpose of the PAY organization is to give information and inspiration that will develop leaders in government administration, thereby strengthening political structure of our Republic." (November 1961 PayDay) PayDay, the publication of PAY, states that the journal is dedicated to the objectives of informing our people and particularly the young people, of the deadly threat of Communism and of rededicating this generation to the form of government as conceived by our forefathers." (PayDay December 1961)
The organization consisted of local chapters in high schools and universities. These chapters had a faculty sponsor and the permission of the school or university. The original board of the Patriotic American Youth included leading administrators from the major universities in the Mississippi, as well as several former members of the Mississippi State Sovereignty Commission, a state funded organization that defended and promoted racial segregation.
In 1958, Sara McCorkle started the Patriotic American Youth when she was the Head of the Women's Division of the Mississippi Citizen's Council, also called the Paul Revere Ladies. According to an oral history with Mississippi State Sovereignty Commission Director Erle Johnston, McCorkle "was trying her best to get young people to be conservative-minded. That was their word "conservative-minded," which meant, of course, maintain segregation. And she was a very dedicated lady, I'll say that for her, and I did help out every now and then." [Erle Johnston Oral History] None of the literature produced by the Patriotic American Youth supports the claim that the group defended segregation. The Mississippi State Sovereignty Commission donated $2500 to PAY when it was first created with smaller donations in following years. [November 20, 1964 telegram about funding PAY] Since PAY was not state funded, McCorkle sought donations to fund resources and lectures for the members, as well as the daily operations. These expenses included the salaries of McCorkle and a staff member, films, speakers, books for PAY reading programs in schools, and printing of flyers. Many of the resources came from House Un-American Activities Committee. These included various pamphlets, flyers, and documentary films like Operation Abolition and My Latvia. All of the resources highlighted the suspected evils of the Communist Party.
The organization was not officially affiliated with any political party or other group. The offices of the organization did at one time share office space with the John Birch Society headquarters in Jackson. The John Birch Society is a conservative group that at the time supported segregation. In the same building was a Freedom Book Store. These stores were run by "voluntary interested citizens" and sold pro-American and anti-communist materials. The book stores were found in cities around the state including Hattiesburg.
Starting in 1962, annual conferences were held around the state. Early conferences included several presentations over the course of a day. By 1974, the conferences lasted a week with over 20 speakers addressing topics such as "What is Communism and How it Effects our Internal Security," "The Communist Mind and Tactics," and "Young People under Hitlerism and Communism."