25 Famous People You Didn’t Know Were Boy Scouts
Established in 1910, the Boy Scouts of America is well over a century old. With so many years under the organization's belt, it's no wonder that many famous faces have spent time as scouts, from politicians to activists to professional athletes and everyone in between.
The first man to walk on the moon was indeed a member of the Boy Scouts of America. Neil Armstrong earned his Eagle Scout Award as a member of Wapakoneta, Ohio’s Troop 14 back in 1947. He took that iconic walk on the moon 22 years later in 1969. Fun fact: On his way to the moon Armstrong sent this message to the organization’s National Jamboree: “Hello to all my fellow Scouts at Farragut State Park in Idaho… Apollo 11 would like to send them best wishes.”
Martin Luther King Jr.
Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was a registered Boy Scout from age 11 to 13 with Troop 151 in Atlanta, according to Boys Life. The civil rights activist started college at the age of 15 after skipping the ninth and twelfth grades, leaving little time for a scouting career past the age of 13. Don’t miss these 20 inspiring quotes from MLK.
Before he was singing about wasting away in Margaritaville, musician Jimmy Buffet was a Boy Scout. “I’m a pretty good field medic,” he said in an interview with Men’s Journal. “From my Boy Scout days, I can patch people up. I can do stitches, which comes in handy in remote surf breaks.” Find out 10 little-known talents of famous people.
Not only did Harrison Ford work his way up to Life Scout (the second highest ranking in the Boy Scouts organization), but he also rescued a fellow scout back in 2001. Ford is an avid flyer, often piloting his own air transportation. In this scenario, the actor was piloting his own helicopter when he swooped in to help a 13-year-old Boy Scout who had been lost in Yellowstone National Park overnight. They may not have been Boy Scouts, but these celebrities still celebrate all that being a 4-H member did for them.
An icon of the western movie genre, it should be of no surprise that growing up John Wayne (real name Marion Morrison) was a Boy Scout. BSA even dedicated a campsite to the star. The John Wayne Outpost Camp was established in 1979 and is located at the Boy Scout’s Los Angeles Area Council’s Lake Arrowhead Scout Camps.
NBA icon Michael Jordan learned to play basketball on his family’s backyard court in Wilmington, North Carolina, but that wasn’t his only extracurricular activity. That’s right, he was also a Boy Scout. In a 1993 People magazine article, Deloris Jordan talked about the importance of being involved in her children’s lives. “We didn’t do anything for Michael that we didn’t do for our four others,” she said. “PTA, Boy Scouts, band—our kids were our life. James (Jordan’s father) and I were so involved with our children that after they left home, we had to meet one another all over again.”
Classic movie star Jimmy Stewart grew up in his hometown of Indiana, Pennsylvania as a scout and appreciated the organization’s values so much that he maintained a connection with them as an adult. Because of his dedication to BSA, they established the James M. Stewart Good Citizenship Award in 2003, presenting the first at the Indiana County Bicentennial Boy Scout Camporee. Read here to find out why Stewart didn’t want to film It’s a Wonderful Life.
George W. Bush
Whoever is serving as President of the United States becomes an honorary Boy Scout for the organization, whether they participating in scouting in their youth or not. George W. Bush did spend time as a Cub Scout growing up in Texas and like other presidents, addressed present-day scouts at a jamboree in 2005 during his time in office. In his speech, he said, “Every day, Scouts are showing that the greatest strength of America lies in the hearts and souls of our citizens.” Check out these 24 delightful little-known talents of U.S. presidents.
Several United States presidents enjoyed the benefits of being a Cub Scout during their childhood, but only one worked his way up to the status of Eagle Scout and that was Gerald Ford. According to Scouting Magazine, he earned the award in 1927 when he was a member of Troop 15 in Grand Rapids, Michigan. Ford later received the Distinguished Eagle Scout Award in 1970. Check out the funniest jokes told by 23 U.S. presidents.
Bill Gates was a scout during the 1960s and 1970s in his hometown of Seattle. In 2010 he received BSA’s highest honor, the Silver Buffalo Award, for his efforts to assist youths. “The merit badges I received: Basket weaving. Wood carving. I was really good at those things. And imagine if I hadn’t learned those things?” he said upon accepting the award. “Now, I understand that they’ve really updated their merit badge program. They’ve got nuclear science, American business, they’ve got computers. So, it is interesting, I might have to go back and get a few.”
The moon was visited by another Boy Scout-turned-astronaut. Buzz Aldrin, the second man to make a moonwalk, was a scout in his youth, achieving the rank of Tenderfoot, according to Scouter Life. Aldrin is said to have logged 289 hours and 53 minutes in space when you count his time in both the Gemini and Apollo programs. Here are 10 bizarre things humans have left on the moon.
Baseball great Nolan Ryan was a Cub Scout in 1956 and during that time he joined the Alvin Rangers Little League team in his home state of Texas. Suffice to say the latter had a great deal of influence on his future career, Ryan has said his memories of scouting left an indelible mark on his childhood.
Wynton and Branford Marsalis
Musicians Wynton and Branford Marsalis admittedly have strikingly different personalities (growing up, Wynton was allegedly the more focused of the two, becoming an Eagle Scout at age 12), but one thing the musical brothers did have in common was their commitment to scouting. “Wynton was very disciplined,” Branford tells People magazine. “He knew when he was 12 that he wanted to be a musician. I just wanted to be an adolescent knucklehead, and I was very good at that.”
Funnyman Zach Galifianakis achieved the ranking of Eagle Scout while growing up in North Carolina’s Appalachian foothills. While he doesn’t speak much about his time as a scout, it may have inspired his sense of humor. The actor admits he eagerly awaited the silly puns that appeared in Boys’ Life on their “Think and Grin” joke page. The magazine is, of course, an official publication of BSA.
Late night talk show host Jay Leno may owe his choice of career to his time in the Boy Scouts. Leno, who lives with dyslexia, has said he didn’t feel he was a very good scout because the condition made it difficult for him to complete some of the organization’s tasks, like tying knots. Fortunately, he had an excellent Scoutmaster who elected Leno to be his troop’s cheermaster, encouraging the young boy to tell jokes to keep the rest of the group’s mood up.
The Boy Scouts can count at least one Oscar winner among its alums. Steven Spielberg was a member and at 11 years old actually set his film career into motion when he made a nine-minute short to earn a photography merit badge. The film, which he created using his dad’s 8mm camera, was called The Last Gunfight. He later served on their advisory board.
John F. Kennedy
John F. Kennedy reached the level of Star Scout during his childhood career in the BSA. He kept up with the Scouts well into his political career. As a scout, he was a member of Troop 2 in Bronxville, New York and then later held many positions in the organization’s Boston district, including as district vice-chairman, executive board member, and national council representative. Then, in 1961 as POTUS, he became the National Honorary President. Read up on these 11 John F. Kennedy quotes.
He may not have made it to the high rank of Eagle Scout, but Richard Gere did spend some time as a BSA member back in the day. He maintains the organization’s philanthropic spirit in his adult life, focusing on humanitarian causes like HIV/AIDS and homelessness. He created The Gere Foundation which contributes directly to The Tibet Fund which supports the Dalai Lama and the Tibetan community-in-exile.
Former President Bill Clinton was a Cub Scout back in his day. When he addressed the BSA’s Jamboree in 1997 he applauded the organization and its members for their dedication to volunteerism. “For almost a century, the Boy Scouts of America have helped to make volunteer service an American ideal,” said Clinton. “With every act of kindness, you’ve strengthened our nation’s commitment to community and promoted a sense of civic responsibility.” Here are some astonishing facts you didn’t know about U.S. presidents.
On Twitter, Chris Pratt mentioned that he was once a scout, all while donating to help out a current Scout in need. The actor is well-known for his philanthropic efforts, even donating $500,000 in his father’s name to create the Dan Pratt Memorial Teen Center, will be part of the Boys & Girls Club of Snohomish County in Lake Stevens, Washington.
After President Donald Trump’s controversial speech at a Boy Scout Jamboree, actor George Takei took to Twitter to share his scouting experience and disappointment over the appearance. “I served proudly as a Boy Scout in my youth,” he tweeted. “Trump has none of the virtues of a scout, and his speech to them was, like him, embarrassing.” Here are 13 secrets the best motivational speakers know.
According to Time, the Boy Scouts of America counts Bill Gates as their most successful member. However, Walmart founder Sam Walton is reportedly the highest-earning Eagle Scout in terms of net worth, as Gates only reached the level of Life Scout (which is the ranking below Eagle). We’re going to go out on a limb that Gates isn’t crying any tears over this apparent slight.
L. Ron Hubbard
Scientology founder L. Ron Hubbard is the only known former Boy Scout to have created a religion. While there have been rumors that Hubbard was the youngest person ever to achieve the ranking of Eagle Scout at the age of 13, that belief has been largely disputed. These are the strangest unsolved mysteries of all time.
The Dirty Jobs star was famously an Eagle Scout. “It was a vibrant space where you really could test yourself and fail in a way, that on the one hand, made you safe enough to attempt, but on the other hand didn’t try to check every box and please every single person,” he told Fox News host Tucker Carlson in an interview.
The Dancing with the Stars phenom was once a Scout and continues to be very supportive of scouting in general. “As a kid, I was a Boy Scout and my dad was very into the outdoors, so we would take these big road trips every year for my birthday and go camping and see all the amazing parks,” he told the Washington Post. Next, check out these ways to give back without breaking the bank.