From the Archives, October 20, 2019

The Charges Against Ward Akers, Part III

For the last two weeks we’ve been exploring the charges against Ward Akers, a topic we have been asked about several times. To recap, on July 1, 1975, Larry Brinton in the Nashville Banner raised questions concerning Akers’ salary, nepotism in the Council office, and some generally questionable practices of the Council, specifically concerning

Brinton, Akers

Larry Brinton, “Akers Steps Aside During Full Review of Scout Program,” _The Nashville Banner_, July 11, 1975, pg. 1, 18.

trips and reimbursements. He followed up these charges 2 days later with accusations that the Council was trying to bury the publicity in hopes it would go away. Undeterred, Brinton pressed forward and a week after the first accusations, he then charged Akers with violating the Council’s own policy of no professional holding an outside position or interest. Akers was an investor in Camp Hy-Lake and his eldest son Ward E. Akers ran the camp.

It was clear by this point it was not going to be possible to completely bury this story without doing *something*. Money was clearly one motivator here. The United Way, where a percentage of Council funding came from, was demanding documentation that funds were being spent appropriately. Further, the Council’s own fund raising efforts (the SME campaign that year) was well short of its goal. Given this reality and the accusations, it seemed that some sort of investigation was warranted. Indeed, for the good of the program and the Council’s reputation, a thorough audit could only be a good thing. And so despite some members of the executive board being opposed, such as former Linton Boxwell camper and former Judge and Metro Mayor Beverly Briley, a “blue ribbon committee” was formed.

At a meeting at Boxwell on Thursday evening, July 10, the Executive Board announced a “no stone unturned” review. Ad Hoc Committees were established to investigate the following areas: Accounting, Administration, Budget, Ethics, Program, and Salary. Still, the Council was going to control the situation as best it could. The names of the Committee chairs would be released, but there would be no discussion of their work until said work was concluded. In other words, they could conduct their investigations without further interference from Brinton.

And the kicker? Ward and his wife/secretary Elizabeth Akers agreed to “step aside,” “temporarily relinquish[ing] their duties” while the investigation was conducted. This was July 10, 1975. The “Blue Ribbon” Committee work would not be complete until the first week of October, 1975, 44 years ago this month…

Larry Brinton, “Akers Steps Aside During Full Review of Scout Program,” The Nashville Banner, July 11, 1975, pg. 1, 18.

From the Archives, October 13, 2019

The Charges Against Ward Akers, Part II
 
Last week, we started the story of the charges against Ward Akers, a topic we have been asked about several times. On July 1, 1975, Larry Brinton in the Nashville Banner raised questions concerning Akers’ salary, nepotism in the Council office, and some generally questionable practices of the Council, specifically concerning trips and reimbursements. And that was all in one article.
 
Despite a strong defense from Council President C. A. “Neal” Craig II, Brinton wasn’t done. On the 3rd, Brinton called out the Council again. In addition to summarizing the original issues, Brinton went on to call out the Council for it’s approach to the accusations. Brinton was irked that the Council chose NOT to do an investigation and instead hoped the issue would disappear as people enjoyed the July Fourth holiday. To that end, he reported, the Council would no longer discuss the issue with the press. Brinton was not going to let the issue fade away.
 
Then came the second bomb, shown here. On July 8th, after the July Fourth holiday, Brinton ran a third article, again on the front page of the Banner. This time the charge was unequivocal: the Council had “a policy against any professional staff executive holding an outside job or having another business interest.” And yet, Ward Akers was a founder and partner in a corporation that purchased a private camp in Quebeck, Tennessee. For those who don’t know, Quebeck is right around the corner from Rock Island. And the private camp in question was literally down the river from the previous Boxwell, a camp called Hy-Lake.
 
To add insult to injury, Akers continued to own 20 percent in the camp AND Hy-Lake was run by one of Akers’ sons, Ward C. Akers. Brinton presented this revelation as even unknown to Craig, who was told in between phone calls with the reporter by Akers, who was in the room listening.
 

The pressure was on to do something… More on that next week.

Brinton, Britton

Larry Brinton, “Despite Boy Scout Policy, Akers Is Partner in Top Private Camp,” The Nashville Banner, July 8, 1975, pg. 1, 4.

From the Archives, October 6, 2019

The Charges Against Ward Akers

We’ve hinted before about the allegations against Ward Akers, just earlier this year in fact. The topic has generated a great deal of interest, especially for those who weren’t around at the time. For those who were, a bitterness about the unfairness of the charges is often readily apparent. Nevertheless, this week, we thought we’d dig a little deeper.  For setup, you’ll need to understand that there were two major newspapers in Nashville at the time. Both were locally owned and operated, shared the same office building and press, but each had different staffs and outlooks.  The Nashville Banner ran in the afternoon, while The Tennessean ran in the morning.

Seen here is the article written by The Banner reporter Larry Brinton that launched the investigation on July 1, 1975. Brinton had been asking questions about salaries, specifically about Akers’s salary as well as the salaries of his wife and mother in law, both of whom also worked at the Council office. Brinton was scooped somewhat that morning when The Tennessean ran Council President C. A. Craig II’s letter in response to the allegations. So, the response was out there before the charges.

Brinton started by alleging several things. First, Akers’ salary was suspiciously high, especially in time of falling revenues and a weakening economy. Second, there was nepotism at the Council office, which compounded the salary issue. Finally, Brinton pointed out what he saw as some smaller, but equally sketchy financial practices of the Council. These were the charges that C. A. “Neil” Craig was responding to in his letter than ran in the morning Tennessean.

We say “started” because The Banner article here was just the first salvo. Brinton continued to pressure Akers and the Council repeatedly over the next several days and the allegations expanded. More on this next week.

Britton

Larry Brinton, “Boy Scouts Pay Akers Family $68,000; Action Is Defended,” The Nashville Banner, July 1, 1975, pg. 1, 8.

From the Archives, September 28, 2019

The Death of E. B. Stahlman
 
This week we take a look at a short, but somber moment. E. B. Stahlman was not only the Vice-President and co-publisher of the _Nashville Banner_, but he had been absolutely critical to securing the land and leading the capital development campaign for the Old Hickory Boxwell. As a result of his work, Camp Stahlman was named for him. He suffered a debilitating stroke in 1968 and passed away at home on Wednesday, June 12, 1974.
 
Pearl Schleicher, the camp cook from 1962 through 1994, remembered the moment when the news reached camp. In this week’s anecdote, Schleicher relates the story to Kerry Parker and Russ Parham in an audio interview on July 17, 2001. Schleicher was approximately 92 years old at the time. She passed away in 2004.
 
Pearl Schleicher: [Ward Akers] came in the kitchen over there one morning, right at breakfast time, went directly into the store [room] and Ed [Human, Reservation Director] went in there with him. And he stayed and stayed and stayed. Finally, Ed come out and when he did, I went in. I said, “Mr. Akers, come and eat some breakfast.” And the tears were dropping off on the floor. He had lost his best friend. And I said something about Mr. Evans. His name Evans?
 
Kerry Parker: No, Stahlman. E. B. Stahlman.
 
Pearl: Stahlman! I said, “just come on out here and eat.” And them tears were really dropping. I couldn’t imagine what was making him cry so. And then when he said, “Well doll, I’ve lost the best friend I’ve ever had. The best friend I’ve ever had.” He repeated it! And I said, “Well come on and eat something, you’ll feel better.” “Doll, I don’t want anything. I’m full.” He meant he was full of grief, I reckon is what he meant.
 
Kerry: Now, this was at breakfast time that he came in? And E. B. Stahlman is the man that was instrumental in Camp Stahlman, the camp where you were working at the kitchen, right? And him and Akers were…
 
Pearl: I just forgot his name.
 
Kerry: E. B. Stahlman, yeah. Well, that’s interesting. Did you ever see Mr. Akers cry before?
 
Pearl: No, he was always so jolly.
 
Kerry: Yeah. I never did either, so I thought that was a very interesting story to see the human side of Mr. Akers.
 
Pearl: Well he had it. He had that human side.
 
The Death of E. B. Stahlman
Interview with Pearl Schleicher, February 17, 2001