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Let’s celebrate 10 black leaders who got their start in Scouting

Throughout history, Scouts of all races and ethnicities have gone on to achieve success in their chosen field.

Former Scouts have become U.S. cabinet secretaries, flown in space, won Super Bowls and led major corporations.

It’s a legacy that makes current (and future) Scouts especially proud.

In celebration of Black History Month, I wanted to share a list of 10 prominent African-American leaders who got their start in Scouting. Enjoy!

Ernest Green, Distinguished Eagle Scout and member of the Little Rock Nine


Green made history as a member of the Little Rock Nine. That was the name given to the first black students ever to attend classes at Little Rock Central High School in Arkansas. In 1958, Green became the first African-American student to graduate from the high school. In 1999, he was awarded the Congressional Gold Medal by President Bill Clinton.

Guion Bluford, Eagle Scout and the first African-American in space


After serving in the Air Force for 13 years, Bluford set his sights on space. He was named an astronaut and, in 1983, became the first African-American in space. In all, he logged four space flights totaling 688 hours.

Emery Moorehead, Distinguished Eagle Scout and Super Bowl champion


Moorehead played 12 seasons in the NFL, including his final eight with the Chicago Bears. He was on the Super Bowl XX-winning Chicago Bears team that was famous for its “Super Bowl Shuffle” song, though it doesn’t appear Moorehead himself was in the video. After his NFL career ended, Moorehead served Scouting. He’s on the Board of Directors of the Northeast Illinois Council.

Chuck Smith, Distinguished Eagle Scout and retired CEO


In Scouts, Smith got an interest in ham radio and building electronics. That turned into a successful career that led him to be president and CEO of the Fortune 500 company AT&T West. Smith, now retired, is a 2010 Silver Buffalo Award recipient.

Togo West, Distinguished Eagle Scout and former Secretary of Veterans Affairs


West, who served as Secretary of Veterans Affairs under President Bill Clinton, has continued to support Scouting as a member of the national executive board and as past president of the National Capital Area Council. He is a 2000 recipient of the Silver Buffalo Award.

Hank Aaron, Boy Scout and baseball legend


Aaron hit 755 home runs in his legendary baseball career — the second-most in history. Aaron is often incorrectly regarded as an Eagle Scout, but he has been a friend of Scouting throughout his life. The BSA presented him with the Silver Buffalo Award in 1984.

Martin Luther King Jr., Boy Scout and civil rights pioneer


King, the American civil rights hero, was a Boy Scout. From age 11 to age 13, King was registered as a member of Troop 151 in Atlanta. The troop met at Ebenezer Baptist Church, now part of the Martin Luther King Jr. National Historic Site. (See his original charter here.)

Colin Powell, Boy Scout and former Secretary of State


Powell, former U.S. Secretary of State and a retired four-star Army general, was in Boy Scouts as a young man. He is a 1992 recipient of the Silver Buffalo Award.

John H. Johnson, Boy Scout and magazine publisher


Johnson founded the Johnson Publishing Company, which went on to produce Ebony and Jet magazines, among others. A former Boy Scout, Johnson often met with Scouts in the Chicago area to describe how Scouting helps low-income communities find a bridge out of poverty. He died in 2005.

Ernie Banks, Scouting supporter and baseball great


Banks, known as “Mr. Cub” for his 19-year career with the Chicago Cubs, was one of the all-time greats. And not just in baseball, either. After his career ended, he showed his exceptional character by raising money for and speaking on behalf of the Boy Scout movement. Banks, a 1973 recipient of the Silver Buffalo Award, died in 2015.


13 Comments on Let’s celebrate 10 black leaders who got their start in Scouting

  1. Thanks Bryan for listing these prominent Americans and connecting their racial heritage to that of Scouting! What most people do not know is that we have a large number of Black men who, like Bluford, West and Powell, trace their military successes in a large part from their Scouting experiences. As I wrote in a blog entry earlier this week, one does NOT have to be an Eagle Scout to give back what Scouting can provide — just have drive, determination and a dream.

    By the way, I have a better photo of both Powell and West if you care to use those instead of those two tinny tiny images.

    (um,,,we had some great Black females who have served Scouting as well…*smiling*)

  2. Jerry Lawrence Crosby, Sr. // February 11, 2016 at 9:55 am // Reply

    White- American, Red- American, Black- American. Yellow American. The hyphen will
    destroy us. We are Americans…..That says it all!

    • I dunno. I’d like to believe that what my grandparents brought over (even though they left behind a lot) from Syria helped build this nation. My kids proudly carry that identity (even though Mrs. Q has nothing of Arab in her :; ). I’d like children of other great races and ethnicity also have that same sense of something special to offer us.

      That said, I’m glad to see — as I look at the upcoming generations — that it’s getting a little harder to tell what should go in front of the hyphen!

    • If we judge a person by the content of their character, it will not matter what label anyone chooses to use.

  3. demondeacon87 // February 11, 2016 at 10:42 am // Reply

    All of these black men were in Scouting during a period of legal racial segregation in the United States. Who made it possible for these men to be Scouts as boys, especially as boys in the American South, where racism was often most cruel and violent?

  4. I only have second-hand knowledge by hearing from African American scouters north of the Mason-Dixon line and reading about others. But their story is consistent with how I’ve heard scouting take hold in other far-flung reaches of the country. Simply put, African American communities (the Black Churches especially) saw what scouting was doing for other young men, and they were determined to have the same thing for their own youth. They took the initiative, and established scouters at every level of scouting encouraged them.

    So, although segregated, scouting was easily implemented in minority communities. Desegregation followed – perhaps a decade or two delayed – in the wake of national trends.

    I’ll let someone with a better sense of scouting among minorities offer more details and maybe a few good references.

  5. As a Southerner, I don’t see or feel the racism that is portrayed in the media. By and large, we are respectful of all. Well-mannered. We like to live and let live. And we don’t like to be bossed. I wasn’t around in the early Sixties, but I’d bet most of the South wasn’t as racist as people believe. And we want the best for people–all people. That’s why there’s been Scouting here for all races for a long time.

  6. You forgot one: Marion Barry, the former mayor of Washington DC and civil rights activist. He was one of the first black Eagle Scouts in Tennessee; around 1950.

    • But alas… considering his problems later in life he shouldn’t be cited as a role model,

  7. Thank you for posting this. It is very positive content for both those in scouting and those outside of scouting.

  8. Why is Scouting magazine publishing a racist article? Shame on you. This is antithetical to the Scout law.

    • Was there anything in this article that suggested folks of a particular origin are destined for anything but that greatness we call the American hero?

      The tone of the article is friendly, courteous, and loyal. Scouters don’t sweep differences in origin, class, or religion under the rug, but presents them bravely with courtesy.

      Bryan should be commended for hewing closely to the scout law in all of his theses. We would do well to follow his lead.

  9. This was a fitting article for black history month. I don’t believe it takes anything away from any other ethnicities it merely bring history to the for front durning a time of the year that African Americans should dedicate time to learn about their roots. I do agree that we are all Americans, however ever ethnic group has history and leaders of that group that young men and women should know about. Unfortunately Schools can onl do so much with the time they have our youth. So it often taken out of content when history facts like these are posted.

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