In August 1912, Arthur Eldred went before the most intimidating Eagle Scout board of review in history, a board that included Chief Scout Executive James E. West, American Scouting founders Ernest Thompson Seton and Daniel Carter Beard, and Wilbert E. Longfellow, who had written material on first aid and lifesaving for the BSA’s first Scout handbook. Intimidation notwithstanding, Eldred passed his board of review and soon became the first Eagle Scout in history.
And that was just one of the highlights of his 16th year. In January, he and his troop, Troop 1 from Rockville Centre, New York, had greeted Scouting founder Robert Baden-Powell’s ship when it arrived in New York. That summer, he had rescued two fellow Scouts from drowning, earning himself one of the BSA’s first Honor Medals.
Eldred went on to serve in the U.S. Navy during World War I. After the war, he worked as an agricultural agent and later as a transportation manager. He served as troop committee chairman for the troop where his son Bill became an Eagle Scout and was active on two school boards and the Camden County Council.
Although Eldred died in 1951, his legacy lives on. Four generations of his family have become Eagle Scouts.