From the Archives, December 15, 2019

Camp Shape

A variety of groups have used Boxwell over the summer, often after the regular summer camp has ended. Latter Day Saints (LDS) weekends were popular for many years and both reform boys and youth from Nashville orphanages have all had time at one of the Boxwell’s over the last century. In 1972, a new group joined the list: a group of mentally disabled youth.

For a week, 114 mentally disabled youth from across the state moved into Stahlman, which was renamed “Camp Shape.” The idea was part of a federally funded program (“Project Shape”) “to coordinate services for mentally retarded people in Tennessee.” Don Endsley from Tullahoma spearheaded the activity as a way to get these kids out of the institution into the world. The staff for the event was mixed, with some provided by Endsley while others were hand-picked volunteers from the summer camp staff.

Russ Parham remembered this week well. In particular he remembers because a specific detail for the event was lacking on the front end: the remaining staff were told the youth would disabled, just not mentally disabled. It was a type of special needs many were not prepared for. Still, both the Tennessean article that is attached and Parham’s own recollection both ultimately reflect a favor experience. For Parham’s part, he recalled the following: “Q-Ball was there and there was a little girl that spent time with Erin, her favorite song was, “You Are My Sunshine.” She sang it over and over again.”

The event was apparently something of a success. For several summers in the 1970s, a variant of Camp Shape with youth from the Clover Bottom Development Center (now closed) came to camp every year for their own special week.

Camp Shape

Photo by John R. Mott III of _the Tennessean_ staff. Pink goo was apparently quite the mesmerizing event at Camp Shape.

Sources:
John R. Mott III, “Camp Offers Retarded Week of Fun,” The Tennessean, August 7, 1972, pg. 13;
John R. Mott III, “Goo Makes for Excitement,” The Tennessean, August 7, 1972, pg. 13;
Russ Parham (retired Boxwell Business Manager), interviewed by Grady Eades, July 29, 2017, Hendersonville, TN.

From The Archives, October 27, 2019

The Charges Against Ward Akers, Part IV

All this month, we’ve been looking at the events that led to the retirement of Ward Akers. If you recall, our story started on July 1, 1975. Reporter 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. 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. In response, the Council formed six ad hoc committees in Accounting, Administration, Budget, Ethics, Program, and Salary. Ward Akers “stepped aside” while the review was conducted.

The work of all six committees was completed by the middle of September 1975. However, the work of the committees was not made public for approximately two more weeks. The results were first reported in The Banner on the afternoon of October 4th and published in more detail in The Tennessean the morning of October 5th. The reports from the various committees total over 200 pages of investigation into the Council’s dealings and Akers’ performance. As The Tennessean explained, “The committees scrutinized the administration, ethics, salaries, budgeting, programs and bookkeeping procedures of the organization. The Committee which considered the question of salary paid to Ward E. Akers was especially concerned with how he received his raised and whether his salary was too high.” In the interests of brevity here, we direct you to attachment. This is _The Tennessean_’s summary of the various reports and tackles the highlights clearly. The short version: no outrageous violations occurred, though there were some misunderstandings and some poor decisions made. The nepotism and salary charges were clearly explained and dismissed. Camp Hy-Lake was not so easily dismissed.

Of course, because this was a “no stone unturned” investigation, the committees looked into more than the charges. They found some evidence of “ghost” enrollments and some evidence that the farming operation sometimes personally benefited Akers and the rangers. One of the most interesting finding came from the Administrative Review Committee, which found “that the [Executive] board is little more than a ‘rubber stamp’ to the scout executive, probably because it is the easiest, fastest way to get things accomplished.” It was clearly a necessary, but painful examination into Council operations.

While the Council basically found nothing horribly inappropriate with Akers’ behavior, Akers knew what had to be be done. The Council would always function under a cloud of suspicion, even with these reports, if he stayed on as Council Executive. On Saturday, October 4, 1975 Akers announced his early retirement. He would stay on until a new man was hired. Hershel Tolbert was announced as the new Executive on January 4, 1976.

And so ended the era of Ward Akers, council executive from 1947 through 1975 and visionary of Boxwell at Old Hickory Lake…

Nancy Varley, “New Executive Sought to ‘Reorganize’ Scouts,” _The Tennessean_, October 5, 1975, pg.1-A, 6-A.

“Scout Committee Report Excerpted, Summarized,” _The Tennessean_, October 5, 1975, pg. 6-A.

Akers resignation


Nancy Varley, “New Executive Sought to ‘Reorganize’ Scouts,” _The Tennessean_, October 5, 1975, pg.1-A, 6-A.

 

Akers resignation

“Scout Committee Report Excerpted, Summarized,” _The Tennessean_, October 5, 1975, pg. 6-A.

 

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.