Are you a former Boxwell Summer Camp Staff Member? If so, you should join the Boxwell Staff Alumni Association! We are gearing up for spring activities and social gatherings. Now is a great time to give back to camp! In fact, this group will begin planning the 2026 Reunion soon!
One of the powerhouse personalities of the early days of Boxwell Reservation was Bruce Atkins. Atkins joined the professional staff of the Middle Tennessee Council in 1960, working as a DE in the Dan Beard district, which served Pulaski in Giles County. He joined early in the year before Boxwell even opened. As many know, the professionals basically performed an “all hands on deck” approach to getting camp ready in ’60 to make sure it opened on time. Legend has it that the newly hired Atkins–described as a “towering” man by Jack Bond of the Nashville Banner–and fellow DE Gene Hensley would each grab a side of the oak tent platforms and run them as far back into the woods as they could go. That’s how they set up sites in the rush to open the Reservation!
Atkins moved up in the Scouting world quickly, as many did under the tutelage of Ward Akers. He served as Quartermaster of MT-7 (1962) and MT-8 (1963). IN 1964 and 1965, he served as Camp Director at Parnell, back with Camp Directors were always professional Scouters. He was promoted to Field Director that year as well. In March of 1966, Atkins was promoted to Assistant Scout Executive and Camping and Activities Director, the third person to hold that position, following Richard Parker and James Johnson. Almost immediately, Atkins came into conflict with the Ranger Coleman Wright and fired him, bringing in Bobby Smith as the new ranger.
Atkins was a man on the move. You spoke to him quickly as he was walking by. The conversation was short and then it was over. He was possessive of Boxwell: it was his camp and his staff. Other than Ward Akers, no one else told him what to do or how things were to be done. Kerry Parker relates a story of how during a Bull Crew week while National Camp School was going on, he and his crew were working on a tractor and trailer when they came to Stahlman dining hall for lunch. A National Staff man saw them and told them to get and not to get on again as this was again national policy. As Parker and the others tried to figure out how to get their work done, Atkins charged by telling them to get to work. Parker explained what had happened. Atkins replied this was his camp and they worked for him. Get back on the trailer and get to work! No one ever said anything about working on the trailers again!
As with many of the professionals in this era of Middle Tennessee Council, Atkins was promoted to a Council Executive. In 1970, he took over the West Tennessee Council headquartered in Memphis. In 1976, he was promoted again, this time to the other side of the state, as Executive of the Great Smoky Mountains Council.
Despite this incredible run over a very short period of time, Atkins died in 1982 at the age of 48. He suffered from a cancer. He had had surgery to remove the cancer in his younger days, leaving a scar on his next, but the cancer returned in the late 1970s. Atkins did not recover. Nevertheless, his 10 years with Middle Tennessee left a legacy of building a powerful Scouting program. For those who worked for him, Atkins was a larger than life figure.
Boxwell Staff, mark your calendars for September 30. The Boxwell Staff Alumni Association will hold its official kick-off event at Camp Parnell from 1pm to 4pm.
This is a great opportunity to visit with some old friends, but also to see some of the newest additions to Boxwell and its program. We will have current staff available to showcase the STEM Center as well as the Skilled Trades Center. Additionally, we’ll have a small lunch for sale if you are interested (something freshly grilled!) as well as some Staff Alumni Merch. We’ll have a quick formal presentation, but the goal is to keep the event mostly loose so that you can wander, socialize, and learn and so that we can answer whatever questions you may have.
If you sign up for the Association at this event, you’ll be considered a Founding Member of the Association and your membership card will reflect that. Plus, you’ll be able to purchase a Founding Member patch and shirt as well. If you can’t attend this event, no worries. Starting on the 30th, we’ll have online registration available so you can join that way. Further, for this first year, anyone who joins will be considered a Founding Member. It’s not all going to be consolidated into this one event! 🙂