After more than 60 years, Black Boy Scout finally gets his Eagle ceremony denied to him

Mildred Europa Taylor June 22, 2023
Samuel Lynn Jones receives public honor denied to him. Photo: King 5 News

Samuel Lynn Jones became an Eagle Scout — scouting’s highest achievement — at the age of 15 but was denied the ceremony that goes with it. When he asked his community leaders why he had not been honored, a white scout leader told him that he did not come from a model African-American home because he was raised by a single mother.

Jones grew up in Rochester, New York in public housing with a single mother who had him when she was 17. At 11, Jones became attracted to the woods after seeing an image of a forest in a film, with the sun shining through a grove of trees, The News Tribune reported.

“When I saw that light I heard in my head, ‘If God exists, He exists in the woods.’ So, I started looking for God, in the woods,” Jones recounted to the outlet. “I wanted to go to those woods, but I didn’t have a way. I didn’t know how to do it. But I knew Boy Scouts.”

Jones joined a Boy Scout troop where he earned several merit badges and qualified for the rank of Eagle Scout in a few years, the first for his troop. Only 3-4 percent of all scouts achieve the rank, according to The News Tribune. Some weeks after Jones earned his Eagle Scout rank in 1962, he had still not received the award and the ceremony that goes with it. 

To find out why, he went to the offices of his troop’s sponsor — a Rochester community outreach nonprofit known as Baden Street Settlement, which was responsible for organizing the ceremony called a Court of Honor that goes with earning the Eagle Scout rank. 

“Nobody gives me an answer,” Jones recalled. “This one guy was sitting there doing something. I said, ‘Where’s my eagle?’ He goes in his drawer, pulls it out, and throws it across the table.”

Jones then asked about the ceremony but the man told him no ceremony would be held because he was raised by a single mother. “He says, because your family doesn’t represent what we’ve been looking for,” Jones recalled.

Hurt by the man’s words, Jones quit scouting but never forgot the lessons he learned through Boy Scouts and those lessons guided him through life. “We never went on vacation as my mother was determined to pull us out of the projects. The Boy Scouts gave me the opportunity to achieve my dreams and complimented my mother’s mandate that ‘We were going to make it, through discipline, grit and hard work,'” Jones said to KING-TV.

After leaving scouting, Jones attended college at the University of Michigan and was commissioned through the Navy ROTC program where he earned a degree in Industrial Psychology, KING-TV said. After serving in Vietnam, he was awarded a meritorious service medal and he retired as a Naval Commander in 1991.

Fellow Mountain View Lutheran Church member Darel Roa encouraged him to work with the church’s sponsored Boy Scout Troop, but Jones declined because of his experience with the group decades ago. At last, Jones said yes to attending a fundraiser dinner in March for the BSA’s Pacific Harbor Council. While there, a pastor asked anyone who was once an Eagle Scout to stand. Jones did and while standing, “the emotion began to pour out”, he recounted. The following day, he told the story of being snubbed to Roa, who began looking for ways to amend the unfair situation.

On Monday (Juneteenth), after more than 60 years, the Pacific Harbors Council of the Boy Scouts of America recognized Jones’ achievement at a ceremony held in the gym of Mountain View Lutheran Church. The 75-year-old finally got his Eagle Scout presentation in a Court of Honor with six young scouts. He said ahead of the ceremony that the presentation validates a life that he has earned.

Last Edited by:Mildred Europa Taylor Updated: June 22, 2023


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