Father Edward Joseph Flanagan (July 13, 1886 – May 15, 1948) was a priest of the Roman Catholic Church in the United States. He was the founder of what is arguably the most famous orphanage--Boys Town. The campus is not just an orphanage, but now a center for troubled youth.
He attended Summerhill College, Sligo, Ireland. He emigrated to the USA in 1904, and became a US citizen in 1919. He attended Mount St. Mary's University in Emmitsburg, Maryland, where in 1906 he received a bachelor of arts degree and a master of arts degree in 1908. Father Flanagan studied at St. Joseph's Seminary in Dunwoodie, New York. He continued his studies in Italy and at the University of Innsbruck in Austria, where he was ordained as a priest in 1912. His first parish was in O'Neill, Nebraska where from 1912 he served as an assistant pastor at St. Patrick's Catholic Church. He then moved to Omaha, to serve as an assistant pastor at St. Patrick's Church and later at St. Philomena's Church.
In 1917, in Omaha he founded a Home for Homeless Boys. Because the downtown facilities were inadequate, he established Boys Town, ten miles west of Omaha, in 1921. Under Father Flanagan's direction, Boys Town grew to be a large community with its own boy-mayor, schools, chapel, post office, cottages, gymnasium, and other facilities where boys between ages 10 and 16 could receive an education and learn a trade.
A 1938 movie called Boys Town was produced on the life of Father Flanagan, starring Spencer Tracy, who played Father Flanagan and won an Oscar for his role.Mickey Rooney also stars in this movie as one of the residents at Boys Town. Some scenes from the movie were filmed at Boys Town, and Father Flanagan reviewed the script prior to the filming. A sequel also starring Tracy, Men of Boys Town, was released in 1941.
Father Flanagan received many awards for his work with delinquent and homeless boys. He served on several committees and boards dealing with the welfare of children, and was the author of articles on child welfare. Internationally known, Father Flanagan traveled to Japan and Korea in 1947 to study child welfare problems. He made a similar trip to Austria and Germany and while in Germany, died on May 15, 1948 of a heart attack. He was buried in the Dowd Chapel at Boys Town.