Martin Luther King Jr., the American civil rights hero whose life we celebrate every year around this time, was a Boy Scout.
Just typing that gives me chills. It’s a fact that should make Scouts everywhere remarkably proud.
I had read rumors online claiming MLK was a Boy Scout, but this week I got confirmation: From age 11 to age 13, King was registered as a member of Troop 151 in Atlanta.
The handwritten troop charter renewal forms, scans of which you can see below, also include the name of King’s father, Martin Luther King Sr., who was the troop’s chartered organization representative.
The troop met at Ebenezer Baptist Church, now part of the Martin Luther King Jr. National Historic Site. Both King men served as pastors there.
I was pleased to learn Scouting is still alive and well at Ebenezer today. Troop and Pack 213 meet there every other Sunday.
Those young Scouts must feel so proud to meet at the same spot where one of our nation’s greatest heroes once donned the Boy Scout uniform.
MLK’s boyhood home
Martin Luther King Jr. was born in this charming house at 501 Auburn Ave. in Atlanta. You can get a free guided tour of his birth home when you visit the national historic site.
This is the house King called home when he was a Boy Scout; the address is listed on his troop’s charter forms.
The quest to find MLK’s records
A Google search turns up several sites that claim King was a Boy Scout, but I wanted confirmation.
I checked the pages of Scouting magazine, but while the magazine had written about King it never mentioned his Scouting past. Same with Boys’ Life.
I turned to Connie Adams of the BSA’s records management team, which preserves and stores all national records. She found photocopies of the troop charter form with King’s name on them. But where were the originals?
Perhaps with King’s local council in Atlanta, Adams told me.
So I contacted Atlanta Area Council Scout Executive Tracy Techau, who confirmed that King was a Boy Scout: “This is 100 percent legitimate fact,” he told me.
He asked Tom Wilson, the council’s director of support services, to send me scans of the original troop charter forms. Wilson did, and you can see those scans below.
The records prove Martin Luther King Jr. was a Boy Scout
OK, enough buildup. Here are the records (click to enlarge).
Hat tip: Thanks to Tracy Techau, Tom Wilson and Connie Adams.