Last week we explored how a Scout could get Eagle Scout after turning 18 years old. But did you know that prior to 1965 adults could earn the rank of Eagle? (If you did, let us know in the comments.)
As one of the largest youth development programs in the world, the BSA is focused on preparing young people for life, guided by the values of the Scout Oath and Law. The fact that a young man has earned the rank of Eagle Scout, the highest advancement rank in Scouting, has always carried with it a special significance.
But, half a century ago, adults could actually earn the rank of Eagle Scout as well. That changed when the 1965 Boy Scout Handbook added a statement that a Life Scout must “serve actively for 6 months as a troop warrant officer,” a youth position, and Eagle rank became a youth-only achievement.
That requirement still stands today, with expanded details on the role of a troop warrant officer, requiring a Life Scout to serve in a youth position of responsibility in a Boy Scout troop, Varsity Scout team, or Venturing crew or Sea Scout ship.
What the Expert Says
Scouting Wire caught up with National Advancement Committee Advisor Mike Lo Vecchio to get the scoop on how adults earned their Eagle Scout, from start to finish, decades ago.
SW: How did adults earn Eagle Scout?
ML: Through 1965, both youth and adults could earn the Eagle Scout rank; however, this did not include all adults. These adults were mostly Scoutmasters, Assistant Scoutmasters, or Explorer Advisors.
SW: Was this an official part of the program?
ML: The national BSA program did not embrace the idea of an adult Scouter earning the Eagle Scout award, but in the 1950’s and 1960’s, whether or not an adult earned the Eagle Scout award largely depended on the individual council’s program emphasis. Some councils discouraged adults from earning the award while others encouraged the adults to earn the award, believing that an adult who earned the award would be more helpful to the boy and more understanding of what was required to earn the Eagle Scout award.
SW: When did the requirements change to what they are today?
ML: The BSA has always been a youth focused program but the requirements were changed in 1965 to include that a prospective Eagle Scout must hold a youth office (warrant officer) for six months – adults were no longer able to earn the Eagle Scout award. These warrant officers were listed as patrol leader, senior patrol leader, assistance senior patrol leader, junior assistant Scoutmaster, instructor, scribe, quartermaster, librarian, and den chief.
SW: Why is this rank so important?
ML: Because the award is a performance-based achievement, its standards have been well-maintained over the years. To earn the rank of Eagle, a Boy Scout must fulfill requirements in the areas of leadership, service, and outdoor skills. These requirements include earning 21 merit badges (13 required ones), advancement through ranks, planning, developing and giving leadership to others in a service project. And what’s even more amazing is that these achievements are completed before a young man turns 18 years old.
Learn More About Eagle Scout Advancement
Check out the 2015 Guide to Advancement for more information on the Eagle Scout advancement process. And, do you have a cool story about earning Eagle Scout? Please share it in the comments below.
Boy Scouts of America Mission Statement
The mission of the Boy Scouts of America is to prepare young people to make ethical and moral choices over their lifetimes by instilling in them the values of the Scout Oath and Law.