On this day–Saturday, August 31, 1957–the United States Senate approved legislation already passed by the House granting 525 acres of land on Old Hickory Lake to the Middle Tennessee Council. The land belonged to the US Corps of Engineers and in order to build a camp on the property, the Council had to have clear title to the property. The Corps, as a branch of the US Army, could not grant this title; it had to be done by legislation. The bill was championed by Representatives Carlton Loser, Joe Evins, and Ross Bass and Senator Al Gore, Sr. Behind the scenes was the hand of E. B. Stahlman, co-publisher of the Nashville Banner. The legislation did have two caveats. First, in order to maintain this title, the Council had begin construction within three years (so, by 1960). Second, the property had to be used as a Boy Scout summer camp. Should the property no longer be a summer camp, the Council would lose title to the land. President Eisenhower signed the bill the following weekend.
This is it! Pre-order on the first ever Boxwell History book, For the Good of the Program, ends tomorrow, August 31. Copies bought during the pre-order will be signed by the author.
Written by historian and former staff member Grady Eades, For the Good of the Program explores how a changing society led to changes in the Scouting program as delivered as summer camp. It utilizes a hundred years of newspaper articles and hundreds of hours of interviews and personal stories. It tells about the personalities who made the camp program happen and how Boxwell has changed over the last century.
Yesterday, Saturday, August 28, 2021, the Council held a retirement program for Assistant Scout Executive Ron Turpin. Turpin is retiring after 43 years in Scouting and approximately twenty-five years with the Middle Tennessee Council on his second run. We thought it would be appropriate to pay tribute here as well.
Turpin originally joined the Middle Tennessee Council in 1978, after graduating from David Lipscomb. Unlike many professionals, he had a background in Scouting and was himself at Eagle Scout. He began in those first few years of Hershel Tolbert’s run as Council Executive, but stayed only briefly. He left professional Scouting, only to return to the program a few years later, but with the Great Smoky Mountains Council. Turpin hit his stride here, rising through the ranks and eventually getting his own Council, Westark Area Council in Western Arkansas (Fort Smith area) in the early 1990s. When the opportunity to return to Middle Tennessee Council opened up in 1996, he took it.
Turpin returned to middle Tennessee in September 1996 as the new Director of Support Services. For our purposes, he became the new Reservation Director at Boxwell. He came to the new job with a range of experience. In his previous positions, he had run the other council camps, including Buck Toms, Camp Pellissipp, Camp Orr, and Rogers Reservation. Turpin took this experience and began looking at the processes and organization of Boxwell. He hoped to modernize the camp in a number of ways. And, as the Council was still experiencing consistent growth in the 1990s, he hoped to bring more Scouts to camp.
A host of new procedures and programs were brought in by Turpin. The Ten Day Out meeting, assigned check-in times, Camp Kick-Off meetings, registration for merit badge sessions, and split shift meals in the dining hall all came from Turpin’s first summer. Over the following years, new showerhouses, a new waste water treatment plant at Craig, the High Adventure Area at Camp Light including the Parish High Adventure Building and the Pool, not to mention the Staff Centers and the group staff sites (with electricity!) all came about because of Turpin’s leadership. Those years also saw new sites built in Camp Craig, the Trading Posts converted to walk-around shops, and improvements to both the Davy Crockett (now Green Bar) program and the CubWorld program.
For the Good of the Program argues that “modern” Boxwell begins with Ron Turpin, and clearly for good reason. A large portion of how Boxwell operates today is due to new processes implemented when Ron Turpin came in as Reservation Director.
Of course, Turpin moved on. He became Director of Field Services in 2002 and in 2007 Assistant Scout Executive. Perhaps his most significant achievement during his second run with the Middle Tennessee Council was the development of what became known as the Latimer High Adventure Reservation. From developing program to recruiting groups to overseeing construction, Latimer has been Ron Turpin’s project and his crowning achievement. In recognition of his work, the Council announced at the retirement party that an amphitheatre will be built at Latimer and named after Turpin to honor his work.
Here are VirtualBoxwell, we rarely get an opportunity to recognize someone’s achievemens while they are still alive. We are pleased we are able to do so in this instance and wish Ron the best of luck as he enters retirement and leaves behind a legacy of which to be proud.
On this day–Friday, August 29, 1947–“Coach” William J. Anderson served his last day as Council Executive. Anderson had started in the post in 1920 after some initial hesitation in taking on the job. While never more than a part-time position for him–his real job was Vanderbilt track coach–Anderson dedicated himself to the work. Throughout the summer he was at Boxwell, giving lectures to Scouts at breakfast, personal tours to new campers, playing in baseball games or throwing horseshoes in the afternoon, and often riding on the truck with boys on the way back into town to be met by his secretary to catch up on whatever paperwork needed to be done. Anderson’s guiding principle was “one more boy.”
Boxwell’s COPE program began life as rappelling in the late 1970s. Rappelling was a hit from its beginning and quickly led to the construction of a forty foot tower near the compound. However, it was clear to Reservation Director Tom Willhite and others that a more robust program was needed. Enter Billy Walker.
Walker had already been involved with the Council for a long time. A Chevrolet Oldsmobile car dealer in Franklin, TN, Walker had been a Boy Scout in his youth and had even attended the Narrows of the Harpeth Boxwell in the early 1940s. He often related the story that he and his fellow Scouts would walk the streets looking for an adult male to be their Scoutmaster as most of the men had gone off to war starting in 1942. Walker himself later served in the Air Force during the Korean War. He attended David Lipscomb, graduating from Bowling Green Business College. He was a long time member of the Franklin’s Fourth Avenue Church of Christ. And Billy Walker ultimately funded what came to be COPE.
Walker’s interest started in 1983, when he went to Philmont Scout Ranch. It was there that Walker was introduced to a trust fall, a climbing wall, and other obstacles as part of Philmont’s “Dean Challenge.” In this same period, Walker also attended a corporate retreat for Oldsmobile dealers in Florida where again he went through a COPE experience. It was clear that Boxwell could benefit from such a program. Walker and others, namely Willhite and future COPE directors Carl Hyland and Al Hendrickson, began to visit other courses to get ideas, including Camp Strake in Texas and another camp in North Carolina.
As for funding the program, Walker was asked to head up a group to fund the newly conceived COPE program. However, as he explained in an interview in 2003, “And I never was too good at asking for money. Got a little bit disappointed on that but I did get a donation from the Rotary Club of a thousand dollars and I just decided that I’d do the rest of it and I did.” And thus, Boxwell COPE was born in 1985, basically fully funded by Billy Walker.
Walker essentially became the patron saint of COPE at Boxwell. While there were a number of men who made the program work on the ground, including Hyland, Hendrickson, John Hickman, and Lance Ussery, Walker was the man who made sure the operation got what it needed. As Lance Ussery explained, there were times when as COPE Director he simply went straight to Walker to get what he needed. Walker happily made it happen. It was through this continued involvement and financing that the larger 70 foot COPE Tower was built and, equally important, was named the Al Hendrickson Tower. Ussery and Walker agreed the tower should named for Hendrickson to honor his tireless efforts for the program and Walker got the sign made, bypassing more official channels.
Walker continued in Scouting on the local level as well. He served as an Assistant Scoutmaster of Troop 137 in Franklin for decades. In that role, he brought the idea of a Christmas tree lot as a fundraiser to his troop. In the early 1970s a UAW strike had left the dealership without cars, so they sold Christmas trees instead. The fundraiser paid for several Troop 137 High Adventure excursions, including Philmont, the Florida Sea Base, and Adirondack Mountain Canoeing. Indeed, Walker also bought a full sized van to travel in as well as ten canoes and two trailers!
And of course, Walker was deeply involved in the Council beyond COPE as well. He was an Executive Board member for years as well as Chairman of the Budget Committee. For many years, all District Executives received a Chevrolet Cavalier demonstrator from his dealership. He led a contingent to the National Jamboree in 1989 as Scoutmaster. He became involved in and eventually chairman of the Members of Churches of Christ for Scouting. Upon his retirement, Walker donated the funds to create an endowment for the organization, “The Billy and Louise Walker Society.”
Walker also served as president of the Franklin Rotary Club, the Williamson County United Way, and the Williamson County Chamber of Commerce. Always self-effacing, kind, and humble, Walker was a giant in his community and in the Council.