Eagle Scouts Welcome Gerald Ford Home

Photographs by John R. Fulton, Jr.

A week after President Gerald R. Ford, 93, died last December, 400 Eagle Scouts—age 15 to 85—lined the road to his Grand Rapids, Mich., presidential museum. They were there to welcome home the only Eagle Scout to serve as president of the United States.

Ford's family had requested an honor guard of 200 Eagle Scouts, but Scout Executive Michael D. Sulgrove of the Gerald R. Ford Council said, "I could have had a thousand Eagle Scouts there."

Gerald R. Ford
1913 - 2006
Courtesy Of The Gerald R. Ford Presidential Library And Museum

Most of the honor guard (and the thousands of other Scouts who lined the streets) hailed from Michigan, but others came from as far away as Indiana and Tennessee. They had heard about the opportunity to honor Ford and had driven hundreds of miles to participate.

Ford's body arrived at the Gerald R. Ford Museum on Jan. 2 for a public viewing prior to his funeral the next day. The first people allowed into the viewing were members of the Eagle Scout honor guard. Without instructions, they approached the casket in groups of two and three, saluted, and moved on. In fact, said Sulgrove, the Scouts set such a good example that the chiefs of police who followed them did much the same thing.

Among the Scouts in attendance were eight members of Troop 215, chartered to Trinity United Methodist Church, where Ford became an Eagle Scout in 1927. Scoutmaster Gregory Guy saw the opportunity to participate as a once-in-a-lifetime experience for his Scouts. However, he said, "I don't think a lot of this is going to sink in for a while yet."

America's 38th president, Gerald Ford remained an active supporter of Scouting throughout his life. In the early 1970's, he said, "One of the proudest moments of my life came in the court of honor when I was awarded the Eagle Scout badge. I still have that badge. It is a treasured possession."

In 1970 the BSA recognized him with the Distinguished Eagle Scout Award for "service to the nation and community."

Scouts and Scouters likewise treasured the connection they had with Ford. Perhaps the most eloquent symbol of that connection was a yard sign placed near the Ford Museum. It read simply, "I'm Proud of My Eagle Scout."

—Mark Ray

(Above) In Grand Rapids, Mich., Eagle Scouts salute as the motorcade bearing the body of President (and Eagle Scout) Gerald R. Ford arrives at the presidential museum. (Right) Members of the Eagle Scout honor guard, the first people allowed into the museum for the public viewing, pause to salute the casket in groups of three.

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