Friday night, Feb. 5, was an evening to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the Boy Scouts of America, and U.S. Sen. Lamar Alexander took that time to honor the scouts and to praise the volunteers who have helped make the Tuckaleechee District strong.
Bob Ergenbright, the outgoing district chair with the Tuckaleechee District, said it was a fun evening at the district banquet held at First United Methodist Church’s Asbury Hall.
“We really enjoyed having Lamar there,” said Ergenbright. “He is one of only six Eagle Scouts from the Tuckaleechee District who have received the District Eagle Award. Interestingly enough, Dick Ray, the former manager of the Alcoa Plant, was sitting next to him, and he is one of the other District Eagle Scout Award winners. That is the highest honor an Eagle Scout can get. It recognizes people who have received the Eagle Scout Award for work they’ve done in their profession and within their community.”
Ergenbright said part of Alexander’s speech was centered around the Boy Scouts 100th anniversary. “He talked about some of his experiences in scouting. He was a member of Troop 88 from New Providence Presbyterian, and he grew up in that church. He got his Eagle Scout Award there,” he said.
Ergenbright said the Senator pointed to how Scouting shapes boys’ lives as a result of their being involved not only in scouting but also because of the volunteers who work in Scouting and help them learn how they can be better leaders and citizens.
There were a little more than 140 volunteers at the banquet. “It was one of the biggest and best banquets we’ve had, and Lamar Alexander was a big part of that celebration. He was recognizing that the volunteers are the real base for Boy Scouts, not the district or council staff,” Ergenbright said.
Ergenbright said Scouting continues to grow in popularity locally. “We have 19 troops in the district, which is all of Blount County, and we’re looking to grow,” he said. “Boy Scouting is certainly alive and well and certainly is a part of the lives of boys throughout Blount County.”
Ergenbright said that while he never attained the rank of Eagle Scout, he learned a lot about camping and about working with others. “It helped develop my understanding of the outdoors and my appreciation for nature and for getting along with people,” he said. “It gave me building blocks for community service and citizenship throughout my life.”
Blount County Mayor Jerry Cunningham said the senator’s speech brought back memories of the mayor’s time as a Scout. “It was an outstanding speech. He talked about how Scouting takes boys and molds them into men and sets values for life,” he said. “It points them down the right road and teaches them appreciation of the environment, of family, religion, trustworthiness, helpfulness - the whole litany. It helps families mold strong young men.”
Blount County Chamber Partnership President and CEO and retired U.S. Air National Guard Gen. Fred Forster said he appreciated how the senator thanked the volunteers who helped things happen for Boy Scouts throughout the years.
Forster said he earned the rank of Star Scout while growing up in Knox County. “Being a city boy it really taught me a lot about being in the woods and the country. Throughout my Air Force career, it helped me out,” he said. “I can tell you as an officer, you could tell people who had been Scouts and those who had not. It was obvious the skills they had acquired through Scouting.”
The general said traits such as honesty, trustworthiness, being clean and reverent stood out. “All those are attributes of Scouting and those are things that make an outstanding citizen,” he said.
Maryville Mayor Tom Taylor said he enjoyed the banquet. “That was a very impressive dinner. I have never been to a district banquet that well done,” he said. “They had done a lot of background work and rolled out the red carpet to have Lamar there. It was very befitting a United States senator.”
Taylor said he was impressed with Lamar’s speech. “It was just the right length and just right content. He talked about how growing up and being a Boy Scout had really prepared him for life outside of Maryville and had taught him values you really need to have in public office,” he said. “A lot of times speakers like that become political. He didn’t bring politics in - it was about how Scouting affected his life, and it was a thank you to leaders of Maryville for supporting that program.”
Taylor has been a Scout for most of his life. He began with Troop 88, the same one Alexander grew up in at New Providence Presbyterian Church. He earned Eagle Scout Rank and also the Silver Beaver and District Award of Merit. He has served as Scout Master in Townsend and with Troop 81 at Broadway United Methodist Church. “Except for when I was away at college I’ve been a Boy Scout since back in the 1950s. I’m still on the Council Advisory Committee,” he said. “Both of my boys were Eagle Scouts. You can’t get much more hardcore Boy Scout than I am.”