Ranger Willie Claud
With the arrival of two new Rangers, it seemed like a good time to take a look at some of the older rangers. We’ve discussed Bobby Smith, Farmer Bush, Larry Green, and even given story on Coleman Wright. This week we thought we’d take a look at Willie Claud.
Willie Dean Claud described himself as a lifelong resident of Hickman County, though he obviously did live in other place. Known as “Dean” to almost everyone, he had been in Scouts on and off as a boy in the late 1940s and early 1950s. His Scout troop met at the Centerville Armory and thus had a strong military connection. When two planes collided in the area–Claud believed they were B17s–his troop was called out to guard the wreckage while emergency teams looked for bodies and gathered the debris. The troop even got called out to help search for drowned victims on the nearby Duck River. Scouting was different then.
Claud entered the Army and served through a good part of the 1960s. As his wife explained, he had only been retired a few years when he caught word that the Boy Scouts were going to build a canoe base on the Buffalo River. This canoe base would be Grimes Canoe Base and its development was tied to the 1972 Capital Development Campaign. Claud followed up on the rumors and spoke with Ralph Manus who hired him for the position of ranger at the new base. Indeed, it was also Manus who decided to start calling Dean by his other name “Willie” and it was that name that stuck with him throughout his years with the Middle Tennessee Council.
Claud ran Grimes Canoe Base out of his house for possibly as long as two years while the canoe base was under construction, approximately 1972-1974. Once the house at Flatwood was complete, the family moved on site. According to Claud, Dick Grimes and Ward Akers did not “hee-haw together too good.” In other words, they did not get along. Still, Claud made the situation work. So much so in fact that when Boxwell Ranger Norman Patterson and the Council parted ways in 1978, Claud got the position, moved to Lebanon, and got a raise!
Willie Claud began his run as Boxwell Ranger in April of 1978. His wife and daughter spent time at Camp Murrey, fishing, doing crafts, and playing games. His son eventually became an assistant ranger in his own right. Claud himself developed good relationships with former rangers who still came out periodically, including Punkin Green and Bobby Smith. He stayed on the position for 17 years, retiring in 1995. He was the longest serving Ranger in Boxwell’s history.
The staff will likely remember “Ranger Willie” for a few things. If you were a tractor drive, before you were cleared to drive, you had to attend “Ranger Willie’s Tractor Driving School.” The “intensive” training involved checking the oil, checking the diesel, and making sure you never filled the tractor with gas. Done. The other item most people remembered Claud for was his Army Surplus Supply Store. Here Claud sold items screened from Fort Campbell–mainly clothing and ammo boxes–to Scouts and staff alike. He sold the material straight out of the compound for ridiculously discounted prices.
“Willie” Dean Claud married Betty Jo Ferguson in 1958 and the couple had two children together, Brian and Lori, both of whom spent years on the reservation and developed strong connections with the camp and the staff all their own. Ranger Willie passed away at 78 years of age in December 2009.