1964 editorial wonders: What if Lee Harvey Oswald had been a Boy Scout?

Today’s about remembering the life of John F. Kennedy, but it’s impossible to do so without mentioning Lee Harvey Oswald.

Kennedy was the first president to have been a Boy Scout, and earlier today I offered an in-depth look at Kennedy’s involvement with Scouting and strong positive opinion of the organization.

It’s clear our 35th president’s life was improved by his involvement in Scouting. But what if Lee Harvey Oswald had been a Scout? Would it have altered his life’s course? Would he never have taken that history-defining shot?

That’s just what California Scoutmaster Robert W. Wiley posited in the July-August 1964 issue of Scouting magazine.

I recently uncovered his editorial while browsing Scouting magazine’s digital archives, and I wanted to share it with you. Full text after the jump. 

Lee Oswald and Scouting

I have just finished reading an exhaustive study of the life of Lee Oswald — the late assassin of our beloved President Kennedy. One theme struck me as I had read the tragic childhood past of this confused young man — the fact that he had never belonged to any group or never was part of the “gang.”

Here was a lad of 12 or 13 who had withdrawn from his own boyish world and its happy times. This isolation lasted until much later in life until his tragic act shocked the nation.

You might ask at this point, “What is wrong with a boy not joining a group?” The point is that we must learn to cooperate with our fellowman early in life if we are to be part of society later in life. Lee Oswald was never a member of any worthy, organized group in his early years. I’m not saying this produced a criminal, but I am saying that his withdrawal from his own boy world was a definite factor in producing a person who was “strange.”

Now comes the punch line. Yes, I am going to say that Scouting is a definite prevention of producing Lee Oswalds! If Lee had been a Boy Scout, he would have known the joys of comradeship with boys his own age around a campfire. If Lee Oswald had been a Boy Scout, he would have learned much, much more — he would have learned the meaning of patriotism and love of country!

I am saying that if Lee Oswald had been a Boy Scout, he would never have grown up to be what he was! Impossible? Scouting is NOT the only answer, but it is one of the best! I wish that I had been a Scoutmaster when Lee Oswald was a lad of 12, and that I had the chance to say to him “Welcome to Troop 72!” If I had been, I would have tried to teach him the right way in life. God help me to find more Lee Oswalds now while there is still time to shape their lives!

Robert W. Wiley, Scoutmaster
Editorial in Troop 72 Times
Riverside, Calif.

Original editorial as it ran in Scouting magazine

Click to enlarge:


11 thoughts on “1964 editorial wonders: What if Lee Harvey Oswald had been a Boy Scout?

  1. Dear Lord, please help me to be the type of Scout Leader who has a positive effect on all the children I interact with, especially those who need it the most. I don’t even need to know it, but I pray that I can be there to help direct them down the right path at the most critical of times. Amen.

  2. Lee Oswald was also greatly influenced by what he read and the people he associate with as an adult – Scouting may have formed him into a different person, but so could have the USMC.
    We may never truly know everything about the tragedy surrounding the assassination of President Kennedy – there appear to be factors at play larger than what has been released and discovered by the public.
    At any rate, I believe that we Scouters all implore our Creator to give us the opportunity to help sow seeds of morality, courage, and worth needed to grow these boys into fine men; productive citizens; prepared for life.

  3. Well, I wish we all contribute positively in the life of boys and girls in Scouting and elsewhere. However, a number of other US Presidents and world leaders, involved in serious war crimes and human rights violations had been Scouts… Certainly Scouting is NOT the only influence to discern between good and evil.

    • Agreed, Sergio. And perhaps Oswald was on a path to evil before Scouting ever could’ve gotten to him. But it is an interesting thought experiment that’s especially relevant on today’s anniversary.

  4. OR we would be reading the headline: Assassin Credits Scout Summer Camp With Learning To Shoot.

    Much like Charles Whitman from Texas Clock Tower Fame:
    “At the age of eleven, Whitman joined the Boy Scouts and earned a total of twenty-one merit badges in fifteen months. In September 1953, at the age of twelve years and three months, Whitman also earned the rank of Eagle Scout. Whitman was reportedly the youngest person in the world ever to become an Eagle Scout.” … Wikipedia.

    I remember the big deal being made about this at the time.

    • Unfortunately, any time a current/former Scout, or Scouter, is involved in a crime of any sort that would merit publication (the more outrageous, the better), it draws the attention of editors who can’t wait to put it on the front page. It’s the age old drama of good vs evil being played out. Although sometimes one has to wonder if an agenda of anti-Scouting is behind some of the articles, depending on how the Scouting angle is covered.

  5. He probably would have earned his Shooting Merit Badge.

    We had a kid in our troop from a broken home. Dad was an alcoholic, mom was a deadbeat as well. He was in the troop for a couple of years. He got kicked out of the troop after holding up an elderly couple with a shotgun. He ended up with a new troop when he was sent to Attica, NY for 10 years. He had just turned 16 or 17 and was tried as an adult. Last year, he was send back to prison for raping a teenage.

    Troops can help a lot of boys, but they can’t help all of them. So just do you best and show them the way to go. They ultimately chose the path on their own that they are going to walk.

    This is the thing about scouting, it is hard to record how many boys HAVE not turned to crime. There are all sorts of statistics on criminals, but not on steering wayward boys from activities like this. I know scouts makes a difference, parents know this as well, schools knows this too, and I know that the police agencies know this.

  6. I know that this is a bit, well way off topic, but can someone please identify the uniform shirts the boys are wearing?

Join the conversation

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s