Man receives Boy Scout honor after 50-year wait

Boy Scouts of America Troop 108 of Fairfield met Monday evening at Maharishi School in a Council of Honor to award merit badges to five young scouts.

A sixth scout also received an overdue award, righting a shameful and long-standing injustice.

Randolph Carter, a member of the Maharishi School Board of Directors, was once a young Eagle Scout in Seattle, Washington, in 1963. He was an experienced scout and well liked by his troop. All that was left was the chance for nomination by his peers to a special scouting group.

?I was at summer camp and the nominations were being made for the Order of the Arrow, which was the last award that I was looking forward to,? Carter explained. ?I had already achieved Senior Patrol Leader, Eagle Scout and I had so many merit badges they went all the way around my sash.?

Founded in 1915, the Order of the Arrow is a leadership and service organization within the Boy Scouts whose members are chosen by their fellow scouts as exemplars of the Boy Scout Oath in their everyday life.

But Carter?s dream went unfulfilled. Carter is an African-American, and one day at the camp he heard his scout leaders talking about him and his possible membership in the Order of the Arrow in unfriendly and racially exclusive terms. He was denied the chance to earn the nomination of his peers because of his race.

Jan Thatcher, wife of Fairfield scout leader Greg Thatcher, had a chance encounter with Carter?s wife. When the subject of scouting came up, Thatcher heard the story and immediately resolved to right it.

?When she finished the story, it was almost like a kind of visceral reaction that you have when one of your kids is threatened,? Thatcher said. ?And I said I want to do something about this. The next day, I called the Mid-Iowa Council asking to talk with someone about a diversity issue.?

Scout Executive Bob Hopper took the call and assured Thatcher of his willingness to make it right.

?Its plain to me that a wrong has been done, and while maybe this was a long time ago, its never too late to right a wrong,? Hopper said. ?As much as I was mystified as to why this would happen to any scout, I also knew we had to fix things.?

Hopper presented Carter with an honorary membership in Iowa?s Order of the Arrow Mitigwa Lodge at Monday night?s event. The honor came with an apology on behalf of the Boy Scouts and gratitude for the example his story sets for the young scouts of Troop 108. Hopper and Carter were then joined on stage by some of Fairfield?s other members of the order including Mayor Ed Malloy and Steve Arndt.

?This is a moment of reconciliation,? Carter said. ?The scouts as an organization have gone through many, many changes. We?ve had our struggles as an organization ... [like] my small story that happened so long ago. For the scouts to allow this story to come to full fruition after all these years says a great deal about the organization.?