The National Youth Conference Story
In the early years, the efforts of the Trones were supported by other great men of God who understood the need for such a Conference. The first set of additional Directors included Alvin Adkisson (Tennessee), Calvin Bowers (California), Dual Ghant (Illinois), and Carl Swanigan (Michigan). Later came the additions of Jesse Bishop (Michigan), Orum L. Trone, Jr. (Michigan), Ron Palmer (Washington), and Ernest “Deacon” Wyrick (Texas.)
These men enjoyed the respect and support of churches of Christ across the brotherhood. As the Conference grew in attendance, Trone Sr. recognized the need for perpetuity. He appointed several younger men with a commitment to the annual event and added them as Assistant Directors at various stages across the years. The young men serving in this capacity were James Kevin Murray (California), Jack Evans Jr. (Texas), Phillip Wade I (New York), Perry Wells (Michigan), Darwin Mason, Sr. (Tennessee), Adell Bradley (Texas), Fate Hagood Jr. (California), Narleski Wyrick (Texas), Willard Crigler (California) and Randy Poole (Michigan).
It would be fair to say that every regional, state or local youth conference has benefitted from the determination and grit of the Trones. While the National Youth Conference has been emulated by many, it stands alone as a signature national event for teenagers among the churches of Christ. The friendships, memories, and traditions that have been created among Conference attendees since the 1950s are a testament to the vision of the Trones. The desire to ensure that Christian youth across the country were able to create meaningful relationships with their Christian peers was and continues to be at the forefront.
As the National Youth Conference continued to evolve in the 1990s and 2000s, its senior leadership transitioned. With the passing of Trone Sr. in 2008, Deacon Wyrick found himself as the lone remaining director left to revive the Conference after the recession which resulted in the first ever cancellation of the storied event.
In 2009, Deacon Wyrick collaborated with the four remaining assistants (Murray, Wade, Wyrick, and Hagood) who were now Directors to adjust the programming to meet the needs of a new generation of Conference attendees. As the team began to hit its stride, the sudden death of Murray in 2013 was a sharp blow to the leadership. Deacon Wyrick regrouped again and began adding young men and women as staff members to help plan the Conference that was now growing again. In 2017, the National Youth Conference reached a milestone by finally becoming an official nonprofit organization and a registered charity with both federal and state governments. This designation stabilized the organization ensuring its history and future would be secure.
The next evolution of the Conference involved stabilizing its leadership so the youth being served and adults supporting the event would know the Trones’ initial purpose was still being fulfilled.
In the words of the Orum Trone, Sr., “How Sweet it Is!”