North Carolina historical marker honors Boy Scouts of America pioneer

Harris-2 When you think of the people most influential to Scouting's history in the United States, names like W.D. Boyce, James West, and, of course, Lord Baden-Powell come to mind as three of the several founding fathers of the Boy Scouts of America.

Well here's another name for your consideration: Stanley Harris.

Harris, who was born in 1882, was highly influential in extending the Boy Scouts of America program to African American and Native American boys in the 1910s and 1920s.

And this week, the North Carolina Department of Cultural Resources is honoring Harris with a highway historical marker.

The special dedication ceremony, during which the patch seen at left will be distributed, is Saturday in Boone, N.C. Boone is where Harris lived for the last 30 years of his life, and it's where he was buried when he died in 1976.

Harris was an avid outdoorsman in Kentucky in the 1900s when he began reading about the Boy Scout movement happening in Great Britain. He then applied for and received a charter from Baden-Powell in 1908 to form one of the first Boy Scout troops in the United States. Two years later, he was one of the charter members in the official founding of the BSA.

Harris-1 While serving as a Scout leader in Kentucky, Harris played an important part in introducing African American boys to Scouting. 

So when he joined the BSA national headquarters in New York in 1917, he was made the head of the Interracial Services Division. His job was simple: Bring the Scouting program to everyone.

Harris helped organize the founding of the first all-African American Boy Scout troop in 1916. In the 1920s, he was instrumental in founding the first all-Native American troop.

He later became the first Caucasian given an honorary doctorate by the Tuskegee Institute. Soon after, he organized the Scouts' Interracial Service, an initiative designed to boost diversity in Scouting. 

Harris retired from professional Scouting in 1947, but he remained active in the community and in Scouting before his death in 1976.

Join us in remembering Stanley Harris for his important contributions to Scouting. And if you're ever driving through Watauga County, N.C., stop and check out the historical marker. Find its exact coordinates here.

Thanks to dedication coordinator Ken Badgett for sending this story our way.

About Bryan Wendell 3281 Articles
Bryan Wendell, an Eagle Scout, is the founder of Bryan on Scouting and a contributing writer.