Universal Pictures Distributes 4-H Film, Tom Boy and the Champ

The following story is from the National Compendium of 4-H Promotion and Visibility on the National 4-H History website at


“Tom Boy and the Champ,” a 1961 Signal Pictures’ production and released by Universal International-Films, starred Candy Moore, Ben Johnson, Jesse White and Rex Allen.

Tommy Jo, a 13-year-old Texas ranch girl, wins a calf at the county fair and names him “Champy.” While training the animal, Tommy Jo gets caught in a storm and develops polio. With the help of her aunt and uncle and her parson, Tommy Jo learns to walk again and discovers that the secret of training Champy is to soothe him with music. She enters her pet – now grown – in the Houston Fat Stock Show, but loses when her radio breaks down and no music is available. The parson encourages her to persevere, and with the help of the local 4-H Club, Tommy Jo is able to enter Champy in the International Live Stock Exposition in Chicago. They win the grand championship when the parson sings a song to Champy. Tommy Jo’s happiness is short-lived, however, as she learns that all champions are auctioned off for beef. Unable to raise the $30,000 auction price, Tommy Jo has a relapse and is rushed to the hospital with pneumonia. Fred Anderson, a kindly meatpacker, saves Champy from the slaughterhouse and reunites him with Tommy Jo at the hospital. During the International Exposition segment, the film shows the National 4-H Congress parade in the Arena.

Advertised through National 4-H News, “the intriguing ‘feel good’ entertainment was produced in honor of 4-H Clubs across the country.”

Music from the film includes:

  • Get Ready with the Ribbon, Judge Written by Tommy Reynolds and William Lightfoot
  • Who Says Animals Don’t Cry Written by Tommy Reynolds and William Lightfoot
  • Barbecue Rock Written by Elsie Pierce Wilkes

The film is available in DVD format.


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4-H in the Movies

The following is from the July, 1960, monthly column, “Washington News and Views,” by the federal Extension 4-H staff, which appeared in National 4-H News. This particular column was written by Dr. E. W. Aiton, Director,, 4-H and Young Men and Women Programs (YMW).

“4-H pops up in the most interesting places! Now it’s in the big time motion picture business. I’m writing this article from Hollywood, California. Tomorrow morning we give a final review and approval to a feature-length movie that’s all about a 4-H community in Katy, Texas. The title is ‘Tomboy and the Champ.’ You’ll see it soon in your neighborhood theatre.

“The part of the ‘Tomboy’ is a very nice but determined little orphan girl. You’ll shed a tear or two because polio nearly spoils her 4-H hopes and dreams. but her foster parents, the local club members and an understanding rural pastor help her over the rough places. We hope you like it.

“We always get a tremendous thrill out of working with folks who see in 4-H a chance to tell a wholesome story about the good things that happen in America. This motion picture is another example.

“While flying here to filmland this afternoon I was reminded of an almost forgotten contribution of 4-H to the stars. Once long ago our small town family doctor telephoned and said ‘Ed, we have a mighty sick little baby here. It’s Judy Gumm. We can’t find any food that agrees with her. Will you take real special care of some low-butterfat milk and bring it in fresh twice a day. Strain it and cool it carefully and…’

“So ‘Toots’ — my Holstein 4-H heifer — became an experimental foster mother for about six months. The whole town was mighty pleased that tiny Judy began to feel better right away. at three, she started singing with her father on the stage at the local theatre, between the first and second shows. And later, )you’ve already guessed it) she changed her name to Judy Garland, whom you know as the film and TV icon.

“I hope that every 4-H boy and girl can experience a similar thrill by making someone happy or healthy, producing something, becoming somebody or doing something useful and worthwhile. That’s why we use the term 4-H WORK. It implies service and usefulness. Also, that’s why 4-H should be kept flexible — so that local leaders, parents and 4-H members can shape and fit it to local needs and problems. How fortunate that our 4-H ‘project outline and requirements’ for the heifer program was flexible enough to market the milk from ‘Toots’ in a very unusual way for six months. That’s the way it must always be in 4-H, so we can always say ‘When ‘A Star is Born’ — 4-H helped to raise it to the sky.'”