Walter Elliott Jones
Walter "Elliott" Jones received his 60-year Scouting veteran award in 2020. Elliott joined Scouting as a Cub Scout in 1960, earned the rank of Eagle in 1965, and received the Silver Beaver award in 1998. He has been a constant presence on camp staffs and at Scouting events for decades.
Click here to view the 2020 presentation of Elliott's 60-year Scouting veteran award.
The following is a story written by Ric Chambers entitled "Meeting Elliott at the Jamboree . . . ."
I knew the minute he spoke to me that he was special. He was an adult, but from his smile and the gleam in his eye I knew he was a youngster at heart. He would later in our conversation refer to his “handicap”; something that most of us would now call "challenged." I had been sitting under a shade tree trying to avoid the afternoon heat on the final day of the Boy Scout Jamboree at Fort A.P. Hill, Virginia when he approached and said hello. All of the scouts had left and the last remnants of the staff were slowly disbanding and spending the last night in army barracks while waiting for buses to airports and home.
Having come from my home in Oregon over two weeks before, I was ready to leave the heat and humidity behind. Initially our conversation was about the heat and the bugs and such. But then I noticed that he was wearing a Skymont tee shirt.
Having been born and raised in Chattanooga, and a life long scout and scouter, I knew the old Camp Cherokee of my youth was closed, and Skymont was now summer camp for Chattanooga area scouts. I thought he might be from Tennessee.
"So, where are you from?" I asked him. "Chattanooga" he says. "Me too!" I replied.
I introduced myself and he told me he was Elliott Jones. "So, where in Chattanooga do you live?" "East Ridge." "Me too!" I told him that since I was in high school my family had lived in East Ridge until the recent death of my father, but that I had lived in Oregon for many years. He told me that he lived only a couple of blocks behind the big East Ridge Baptist Church, and I had to once again reply, "me too!" After comparing addresses I figured that we had lived only a couple of blocks from one another for many years.
And then the most amazing of all, one of the most stunning coincidences of my life came when I asked him, "So where did you go to school?" I assumed that he had gone to some school in East Ridge. But, to my amazement he said, "East Lake Jr. High School." And, again I had to reply, "Me too!"
We compared years, dates, and ages, and with one stunning realization it hit me that I knew Elliott. I had known him as a little boy, when we were both little boys in fact. We were not friends or even classmates, but I knew who he was. He told me this dad drove him to East Lake for his special "program," that no program was available in East Ridge and that his mother, a schoolteacher, would pick him up in the afternoon.
Elliott had been in the EMR class; that was what we called it then. It was on the first floor and across from my science classroom. I remember seeing Elliott in there many times. I remembered because of the way he dressed. When we were all growing Beatles hair, and wearing blue jeans, Elliott was very well dressed. While most of the other EMR kids seemed poorly groomed, his mom sent him to school each day in pressed khaki’s and button down shirts. I remember thinking as a child, that his mom must be really proud of him to make sure he looked so nice. I also remembered his glasses, a large distinctive pair, exactly the same as he was now wearing.
"I know you, Elliott! I remember that your mom dressed you really nice for school, didn’t she?" "Yes, she did." He replied proudly.
We sat in the shade for three hours talking, and watching the sun go down. Elliott told me he had several jobs over the years, had worked at Orange Grove School, but no matter where he worked they always let him off for the summer so he could go on staff at scout camp, and he always tried to work at the Jamboree. He had spent the last two weeks working at the Trading Post, a sort of joint gift shop and snack bar. He was in charge of litter and the garbage cans, and he told the boys to be sure to pick up after themselves.
"School never taught me nothing," he said. "They never took the time with me to help me. But, the scouts taught me everything, taught me how to cook." Elliott told me how his dad had passed away, and that since his mom died in 1987 he had been on his own. “I have a lawyer, and a friend who does my shopping, but I can cook . . . ." He related how his two older sisters wanted him to come live with them, but after only two weeks in California, he went on a hunger strike to go back to Tennessee. With the help of his lawyer he has been on his own, living in the same home he had known since he was four years old.
He stayed several years at East Lake Jr. High, after I had moved on to Central High and to college. He had then gone to a farm school in Kentucky for three years where he had learned to ride horses. But, he had made his mom promise to keep his scout registration current while he was away, ". . . so when I came back, I could go camping."
We made endless comparisons about the changes in East Ridge, how the old motel was gone but now a new bank was in its place. And, how he knew many of my old scout friends, John Hawkins the legendary scoutmaster, and Paul Rouse and Johnny Hawkins and a host of others from my scouting days in Chattanooga.
Elliott told me that he has been a registered scout and scouter for forty-five years, and that he attends meetings with several troops. "Sometimes a troop doesn’t want me, but I have places to go . . . . I go to the Rock Springs troop on Mondays . . . ."
As the darkness grew, we could hear the crickets in the woods and Elliott said that when they started making noise, maybe in May, he always knew it was about time to go camping. We said good night, as we had buses to catch at 6am, and I climbed up the barracks stairs still amazed at the coincidence of meeting Elliott after all these years.
The next morning, Elliott was sitting on the porch waiting for his ride. He was in full uniform, and with a smile he patted the rows of "square knots" sewn on his shirt, all indicators of years of scout training and accomplishments. As I boarded my bus, it was clear to me that scouting no only served youth, but clearly, scouting was making a place in life for Elliott and he was in fact not really on his own after all.