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How This 81-Year-Old Man Joined the Ranks of Eagle Scouts

81YearOldEagleScout 2
81-year-old Harry Persons Jr. salutes longtime friend Jim Scarbrough after receiving the Eagle Scout award. (Photo credit: Karen Murphy/Times-Enterprise)

Sixty-three years have passed since one man completed the requirements toward earning the Eagle Scout rank his teenage self worked so hard to achieve. Yet now at age 81, Harry Persons Jr. can finally call himself an official Eagle Scout, despite being decades from his eighteenth birthday.

No, the BSA didn’t make an exception for this Scout – receiving the award at his age was simply a matter of proving he completed the prerequisites to the rank sixty-three years ago.

Harry’s dream was recharged after he discovered a box of Scouting memories while he was cleaning his garage. Harry found his Boy Scout sash, crowded with badges, along with his original Eagle Scout application.

Nostalgia and long-cherished experiences in Scouting washed over Persons, launching him into a two-year quest to gain the Eagle Scout recognition.

After providing proof of his completed requirements and phoning into his Eagle Scout Board of Review, Harry Persons was finally granted Scouting’s highest rank on September 2015.

“You hear about things like this here and there,” said Bob Norwillo, district director of the Suwannee River Area Council to the Thomasville Times-Enterprise, “but for the Scouts, this is very unique.”

Persons graduated from high school at age 17 and was scheduled to attend his Board of Review as the final step in earning the Eagle rank. Unfortunately, a scheduling conflict with his University of Miami studies got in the way and he was unable to complete the final interview. While in college, Harry was drafted into the Korean War. Once he returned from service, Harry married and started a career in public relations – taking him further from his boyhood dream.  

What It Means to Become an Eagle

“I have been on pins and needles,” the new Eagle said. “You can’t get any higher than an Eagle Scout.”

In the late 1940s and early 1950s, Harry was a model of the Scout Oath and Scout Law. Persons says he was the first to earn a First Class and Life Badge at the same time at Camp Flying Eagle in Fort Myers. He also was the youngest and one of the first in Florida to earn the God and Country Award.

“My father, who has passed on, encouraged me to join the Scouts and was very proud of what I accomplished,” an emotional Persons shared. “It was always kind of a competition for me to do what my dad had done and, hopefully, just a little more.” 

At the Eagle’s ceremony, Harry’s longtime friend Jim Scarbrough explained the significance of the achievement, both now and then.

“Since the inception of the Eagle Scout award in 1912, only 2.01 percent of eligible Scouts have earned this honor,” said Scarbrough. “In 1951, when Mr. Persons should have received the Eagle Scout designation, only 1.09 percent of all Scouts reached this pinnacle.”

Read the full story by visiting the Thomasville Times-Enterprise. To learn more about how it was possible for a man to receive Scouting’s highest rank at age 81, read Can You Get Eagle After 18? on Scouting Wire.

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Hayley

Hayley Cordaro is a communications specialist at the Boy Scouts of America. She loves sharing inspiring success stories and uncovering new ways volunteers and employees can make the most of their Scouting experience. If you have story ideas or questions, reach out to us at communications@scouting.org.