At the age of 15, Samuel Lynn Jones became an Eagle Scout, scouting’s highest honor, but was denied the ceremony that goes with it. When he questioned his community leaders why he hadn’t been honored, a white scout leader told him that because he was reared by a single mother, he did not come from a model African-American home.
Jones grew raised in public housing in Rochester, New York with a single mother who had him when she was 17 years old. Jones was drawn to the woods at the age of 11 after witnessing an image of a forest in a video with the light beaming through a grove of trees, according to The News Tribune.
“When I saw that light I heard in my head, ‘If God exists, He exists in the woods.’ So, I started looking for God, in the woods,” Jones recounted to the outlet. “I wanted to go to those woods, but I didn’t have a way. I didn’t know how to do it. But I knew Boy Scouts.”
Jones joined a Boy Scout group, where he received multiple merit badges and became the troop’s first Eagle Scout in a few years. According to The News Tribune, only 3-4 percent of all scouts earn the rank. Jones had attained his Eagle Scout rank in 1962, but had yet to receive the award and the ceremony that goes with it.
To find out why, he went to the headquarters of his troop’s sponsor, Baden Street Settlement, a Rochester community outreach group that was in charge of organizing the Eagle Scout Court of Honor ceremony.
“Nobody gives me an answer,” Jones recalled. “This one guy was sitting there doing something. I said, ‘Where’s my eagle?’ He goes in his drawer, pulls it out, and throws it across the table.”
Jones then asked about the ceremony but the man told him no ceremony would be held because he was raised by a single mother. “He says, because your family doesn’t represent what we’ve been looking for,” Jones recalled.
Hurt by the man’s words, Jones quit scouting but never forgot the lessons he learned through Boy Scouts and those lessons guided him through life. “We never went on vacation as my mother was determined to pull us out of the projects. The Boy Scouts gave me the opportunity to achieve my dreams and complimented my mother’s mandate that ‘We were going to make it, through discipline, grit and hard work,’” Jones said to KING-TV.
Jones left scouting to attend college at the University of Michigan, where he was commissioned through the Navy ROTC program and obtained a degree in Industrial Psychology, according to KING-TV. He was awarded a meritorious service medal after serving in Vietnam, and he retired as a Naval Commander in 1991.
Darel Roa, a fellow Mountain View Lutheran Church member, invited him to help with the church-sponsored Boy Scout Troop, but Jones declined due to his previous experience with the group. Finally, Jones agreed to attend a fundraiser event for the BSA’s Pacific Harbor Council in March. A priest invited anyone who had been an Eagle Scout to stand. Jones did so, and “the emotion began to pour out,” he recalled. The next day, he told Roa about being snubbed, and she began looking for methods to rectify the issue.
After more than 60 years, the Pacific Harbors Council of the Boy Scouts of America celebrated Jones’ achievement on Monday (June 19th) in a ceremony held in the gym of Mountain View Lutheran Church. In a Court of Honor with six junior scouts, the 75-year-old finally received his Eagle Scout presentation. He stated before the ceremony that the award honours a life he has earned.