A Partial List of Peace Corps “Firsts”

On January 14, 1960, Congressman Henry Reuss (D. Wis) introduced a bill for a study of a “Point Four Youth Corps” plan. It is passed.

On June 15, 1960, Senator Hubert Humphrey (D. Minn) introduces a bill calling for the establishment of a “Peace Corps.” It is not passed.

On November 2, 1960, Presidential candidate Kennedy announces plans for a “Peace Corps” at the Cow Palace, in San Francisco.

On June 24, 1961, Colombia I begins the first Peace Corps Training program.

On August 28, 1961, the first groups of Volunteers going to Ghana and Tanzania meet President Kennedy in the Rose Garden.

On August 30, 1961, The first group of Peace Corps Volunteers departs for Ghana. The 51 Volunteers are serving as secondary school teachers.

On September 12, 1961, Tom Livingston from Woodale, Illinois became the first Peace Corps Volunteer when he took up his post as an English teacher at a secondary school in Dodowa, Ghana.

On September 22, 1961, Congress formally approves the Peace Corps by passing an act.

On November 11, 1961, First marriage between Peace Corps  Volunteers: Carol Armstrong and Roger Hamilton in Accra, Ghana.

On April 22, 1962, David Crozier and Lawrence Radley were the first Volunteers to died in service, in a plane crash in Colombia.

In March 1964, the Peace Corps leaves a country for the first time: Cyprus because of fighting between Greece and Turkey.

In 1965 the first two books about the Peace Corps by RPCVs were published: Arnold Zeitlin’s (Ghana 1961-62) To The Peace Corps, with Love and Rhoda & Earle Brooks’s (Ecuador 1962-64) The Barrios of Manta: A Personal Account of the Peace Corps in Ecuador.

From March 5-7, 1965, the first national Returned Volunteer Conference is held in Washington, D.C. It was held at the State Department.

In 1966, the Peace Corps fielded more Volunteers and trainees–a total of 15,556–than it did during any other years.

In 1971, the first Peace Corps “Family” were assigned overseas.

On November 10, 1977, Carolyn Payton was confirmed as Peace Corps Director, the first woman to hold the post.

In November 1978, the first RPCV is elected to the U.S. Senate: Paul Tsongas (D. Mass), a PCV in Ethiopia 1962-64.

In April 1989, Marian Haley Beil and John Coyne (both Ethiopia 1962-64) published the first issue of RPCV Writers with the lead editorial that began: There isn’t really one good reason to publish this newsletter. Putting that aside, I’m going to do it anyway. Today it is: www.peacecorpsworldwide.org.

On October 7, 1993, Carol Bellamy (Guatemala 1963-65) became the first Returned Peace Corps Volunteer to be named Director of the agency.

In 2013, the  Peace Corps started accepting domestic partners.



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  • John,
    On September 10, 1963 Fong Moke Chee, a Malaysian art/geography teacher, and Jim Wolter a Peace Corps science/math teacher were the first host country national and peace corps volunteer to marry in Malaysia.

    Fifty three plus years later Moke Chee says she didn’t know what happiness was until she married me; but now it’s too late.
    Jim Wolter, Malaysia I

  • Thanks to Jim Wolter for this poignant remembrance. Memory and empathy, which characterize our species, will prevent such good things ever becoming too late. Jim, I think we all regret the things we might have said, should have said, but didn’t. But somehow, I think loved ones understand, anyway. JAT

  • The list of firsts suggests that the “first group of Peace Corps Volunteers” was the group to Ghana that departed the USA on August 30, 1961. This is an “alternative fact” and not even Robert Klein – a member of Ghana I and the author of the book “Being First: An informal History of the Early Peace Corps” makes this claim.

    In fact, Colombia I, the group that began training at Rutgers University on June 26, 1961 was first. The documents and articles that support this claim are in the endnotes to: The Peace Corps at 50: Who are the First Volunteers?


    • Ron, I remember that you were working on a history of Peace Corps Colombia and your group. Do I remember correctly and if so, have you published? It would be really good to read.

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