Jump to content

Richmond,VA Black Eagle Scout “should-have-beens”

Recommended Posts


Mr. J. Maurice Hopkins and Mr. William Roane each joined the Ebenezer program as Cub Scouts in the mid-1950s. Together, they soared through the ranks. By the time the two reached high school, they were covered in merit badges — more than 50 between them — all earned under Mr. Ross, and far more than the 21 badges needed to qualify for a shot at the pinnacle of scouting.


Yet the era, the segregated South of the 1950s and ’60s, held them back. As Eagle Scout candidates, the young men were required to clear one last critical hurdle — earning their life-saving swimming merit badges.

Mr. Hopkins said he and Mr. Roane were prepared to advance, but the era was not. In the Frederick Douglass District, the district under which Black scouting troops operated, there were no swimming facilities sanctioned as approved testing sites.

“We swam. We took it every summer at camp where we had to pass courses with the lifeguards,” Mr. Hopkins recalled. “All we needed was access.”

The Boy Scouts’ Robert E. Lee Council, the governing body over all scout troops — Black and white — at the time, barred Black scouts from swimming in whites-only facilities.


Shortly after Mr. Roane died, Mr. Hopkins went a step beyond remembering. He wrote a letter to the Capital District director of the renamed Boy Scouts Heart of Virginia Council pleading for posthumous Eagle Scout recognition to be presented to the Roane family.

To his disappointment, the request was denied. The only formal reply was mailed to Mr. Roane’s widow, Mary. In a 2013 letter, a Heart of Virginia Council executive acknowledged that the men “came very close to earning and receiving the Eagle Scout Award,” and also, somewhat indirectly, that they’d likely also been victims of social injustice.


Mr. Hopkins, 74, is the last living member of Richmond’s Black Eagle Scout “should-have-beens”.



Edited by RememberSchiff
add tag
  • Thanks 2
Link to post
Share on other sites

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.

Sign In Now
  • Create New...