On this Day, October 9

On this day–Thursday, October 9, 1975–the Executive Board accepted the resignation of Ward Akers, effectively ending the executive’s 28 year run with the Middle Tennessee Council. The Board met at Stahlman Dining Hall and the meeting was chaired by Council President C. A. “Neil” Craig, II (son of Edwin W. Craig, of Camp Craig fame).

There was some debate at the meeting as loyalty to Akers was strong. Some members felt Akers would be retiring “in disgrace.” Others felt the motion to accept the resignation be deferred to a later meeting when there had been more time to review the “Blue Ribbon Committee” reports that had arrived earlier in the week. One member said flatly, “I’ve read this report from cover to cover two times and I could not find enough wrong in that report to condemn anyone.”

Nevertheless, the wheels were already in motion. Several private conversations had already been had with Akers, who did not attend the meeting. Akers believed that retiring was for the good of the Scouting program and allow the Council to get back to the business of helping the boys. It was this argument that won the day. The vote to accept Akers’ resignation passed, effective upon the hiring of a new Executive, at which time Akers would become “executive emeritus.”

Ginger Kaderabek, “Scout Unit Accepts Akers’ Retirement,” Nashville Banner, October 10, 1975, pg. 21

On This Day, October 4

On this day–Friday, October 4, 1975–the Council released the findings of the “Blue Ribbon Committee” into accusations against Ward Akers. The “Blue Ribbon Committee” was actually several committees, including committees reviewing Council Administrative practices, Accounting, Budget, Ethics, Program, and Salary and Personnel. The Ad Hoc Committees were a direct result of accusation made against Council Executive Ward Akers by Nashville Banner reporter Larry Brinton reporter in July.

The committees ultimately exonerated Akers. Nevertheless, at the same time that the Committee reports were released, Akers announced his retirement, effective as soon as a successor could be found. Akers had retired for the good of the program. As he wrote in his resignation, “I will personally accept the blames of all problem areas that could have been corrected with more time given to the desk and dedication to paper work.” An Executive Board meeting at Stahlman dining hall later in the month accepted this resignation. In the meantime, the newspapers in Nashville–the Nashville Banner and the Tennessean–published highlights of the Committee reports as well as Akers’ resignation letter.

July 11, 1975. Akers steps aside as Council begins investigation into Brinton accusations. Nashville Banner.

On This Day, September 24

On this day–Saturday, September 24, 1960–Leslie G. Boxwell passed away. Boxwell had been suffering from an undisclosed illness for 10 years by this point. His wife, Jeanette Stacey, had passed away in May 1947, so Boxwell had been a widower for some time by this point. They had been married since 1911. L. G. “Box” Boxwell left quite a legacy. A native of Clearcreek, Ohio, he moved to Nashville in 1906 and quickly became associated with several automobile and road interests. He eventually became the General Manager of the Tennessee Metal Culvert Company and established another similar company in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. He was a road building activist in early 20th century Tennessee as a member of the Tennessee Good Roads Association. He was very active in a variety of other associations in the mid-state as well, including the Rotary Club. Through his work with the Rotary, Boxwell helped form the Nashville Council in 1920 and he agreed to served as the Camping Committee chair after William Anderson was named Council Executive. It was through his work with the Camping Committee, he established the first summer camp at Linton in 1921. The Council named the location “Camp L. G. Boxwell” in recognition of his work. He often visited the camp with his wife and was instrumental in providing transportation for Scouts out to camp all summer. Upon the sudden death of Edgar Foster in 1925, he became the Council President. He served in this position until 1947. In those years, he continued his work with Camp Boxwell, helping to secure the Narrows of the Harpeth location in 1930. He took out a personal loan to keep the camp afloat in the darkest days of the Depression, but was able to bounce back with contracts from the TVA when the New Deal kicked in. By all evidence, Boxwell and Anderson were good friends and when Boxwell retired at the start of 1947 (after the death of his wife the year before), Anderson followed not long after. Boxwell remained somewhat active with the Council, helping to secure Ward Akers as Executive as well as (by some accounts) secure the Rock Island property for the third Boxwell. It is believed that his last Scouting public appearance was the kick-off meeting for the 1959 Capital Campaign that built Old Hickory Boxwell. He did not attend the dedications for this fourth camp in July 1960.

Services were held for Leslie G. Boxwell on Tuesday, September 27 at Martin’s 209 Louise Ave. He was buried at Mt. Olivet Cemetery. Honorary Pallbearers included Ward Akers, William J. Anderson, Ennis E. Murrey and James G. Stahlman. He was 79 years old.

Leslie G Boxwell
Leslie G. Boxwell’s Council President Portrait from the Council Office

On This Day, September 22

On this day–Sunday, September 22, 2013–Tom Willhite, Reservation Director from 1976 to 1994, passed away at his home in Morrison, TN. Willhite had joined the ranks of the Middle Tennessee professionals in March 1964. He was already a bit older than most, starting this new career at 34 years of age, but he established himself quickly. He served as Parnell’s Camp Director in 1967 and was promoted to Field Director that same year. He helped with 1972 Capital Development Campaign and even helped with the electrical wiring in the new Craig Dining Hall. With the departure of Ed Human at the start of 1976, Willhite became the new Director of Camping (eventually Director of Support Services). He began under a rough financial situation following Ward Akers’ resignation and the economy calamity that was the 1970s. He even faced a staff walkout his first summer (it was really only a few people). Willhite went on to serve for 18 years, the longest run of any Reservation Director. He saw Stahlman closed one summer (1979), a visit from Scouting legend Green Bar Bill (1986), and the introduction of C.O.P.E. (1985). Willhite retired as Reservation Director in 1994 but stayed on as a consultant in 1995 to oversee the construction of CubWorld. After complete retirement, he continued to come to Boxwell as a Scoutmaster of a troop. He passed away from a heart attack while getting ready for church at home. Several Boxwell staff friends had visited him the night before. Services were held at the Murfreesboro Funeral Home with burial at Fountain Grove Cemetery in Morrison, TN on September 25th. Willhite was 83 years old.

Tom Willhite
Remembering Tom Willhite (standing), Director of Support Services, Reservation Director, 1976-1994. Photo by Michael Seay

On This Day, September 15

On this day–Sunday, September 15, 1996–Ron Turpin officially began his new job as Director of Support Services with the Middle Tennessee Council. Turpin came to Middle Tennessee after serving as a Council Executive in the Eastern Area Arkansas Council and in the Great Smoky Mountains Council before that. Turpin brought a host of new programs to Boxwell. 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.  He became Director of Field Services in 2002 and in 2007 Assistant Scout Executive. He became heavily involved in the development of the Latimer High Adventure Base. He retired in August of this year after 43 years in Scouting.

Ron Turpin
Ron Turpin, Assistant Scout Executive. Photo taken after interview for VirtualBoxwell, August 5, 2015.