James L. Jenkins was a professional Scouter who is reported to have been the first African-American professional staff member in the United States. He served as camp director in 1931 of the segregated Camp Ramsey Norris. He was selected to serve as Scoutmaster for the African-American contingent scouts from the Fifth region (all of Tennessee, Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana, and Arkansas) to the 1935 National Scout Jamboree before it the event was cancelled. Mr. Jenkins did serve as Scoutmaster to the African-American troop from Chattanooga that attended the 1937 National Scout Jamboree.
James Jenkins was a school principal and later a member of the Chattanooga School Board of Education. See James R. Mapp, "Chance or Circumstance?: A Memoir and Journey through the Struggle for Civil Rights" (2016) (ISBN 9781491780329). Jenkins was the first paid black executive in the United States and became the head of the Dynamo Division (the division for segregated troops). Id. Unlike the chairmen of white groups, Jenkins had no voice or vote on the Board. Id. James Mapp and Dr. Lonnie Boaz "challenged the racial separation" resulting in disbanding of the Dynamo Division, "a slap in the face of blacks in Scouting." Id.
James's Brother, John H. Jenkins, was also an avid Scouter, and served as Scoutmaster of Troop 97 for many years. Notable members of Troop 97 include Dr. Roland Carter (internationally renowned composer), Chief Ralph Cochran (first black police chief in Chattanooga), Deputy Chief Richard Thurman (highest ranking black officer in Hamilton County Sheriff's Office), Kenneth Owen (architect, Silver Beaver recipient).
James Luther Jenkins was born in approximately 1902. He was married to Beulah Jenkins.
1960-12-17 - Scout Colors Presented
1982 History of Scouting in the Cherokee Area Council (identifying Jenkins as first African-American professional in the United States in 1927)