Rick Perry, Keith Richards, Steven Spielberg, and More Famous Boy Scouts: Photos

From Rick Perry to John F. Kennedy to Steven Spielberg, see photos of well-known Scouts.

Newly minted presidential candidate Rick Perry might just be America’s proudest Eagle Scout, but will his Scouting skills help him win the 2012 race? From Neil Armstrong to John F. Kennedy to Keith Richards, see other notables who credit the Boy Scouts for some of their greatest accomplishments.

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Neil Armstrong

It became clear to Neil Armstrong at a young age that he preferred the excitement of defying gravity to having two feet on the ground. In 1936, when Armstrong was just 6, his father took him for his first airplane ride in a Ford Tri-Motor, and the boy was hooked. Neil began taking flying lessons in high school and earned his flight certificate when he was 15, before he even had a driver’s license. He was also an active Boy Scout in his Ohio hometown and eventually became an Eagle Scout (as an adult, he was honored with the Distinguished Eagle Scout Award for achieving status and fame in his life work). He was a dedicated Scout, so much so that he gave a shout-out to “all my fellow scouts and scouters” when he was on his way to the moon during the Apollo 11 mission. Coincidentally, the lunar module of his spacecraft was named Eagle. When the module touched down on the moon, Armstrong famously radioed to NASA to announce, “Houston, Tranquility Base here. The Eagle has landed.” 

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Keith Richards

Legendary Rolling Stones guitarist Keith Richards credited his experience as a Boy Scout for teaching him the teamwork needed to perform well in a band. In his autobiography, Life, Richards writes that though he has many vices, disloyalty is not one of them. He describes how the virtue of being loyal was ingrained in him during his Boy Scout days as head of the Beaver Patrol. In a biography by Victor Bokis, Richards is quoted talking extensively about how being a Scout influenced his career as a musician. “Believe it or not, it was the Beaver Patrol. That was a commando unit, that patrol, compared to what the Boy Scouts were supposed to be about.” He was thrown out for getting in a fight, but said the experience taught him “certain aspects of leadership.”

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George W. Bush

Former president George W. Bush was a devoted Cub Scout in his early years. In 2000, the conservative Texas governor criticized President Bill Clinton and Vice President Al Gore for launching a “discrimination” probe of the Boy Scouts, worried that it would “sever the federal government’s longstanding relationship with the Boy Scouts of America.” Clinton had ordered a memorandum that banned discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation (the 90-year-old organization had a policy that said homosexuals were not allowed to be Scouts or serve as adult leaders) and requested details on the Boy Scouts’ use of federal resources. "For many years the Boy Scouts have conducted jamborees and other events on public lands and provided thousands of volunteer hours to help maintain our national parks,” Bush said. “I hope that President Clinton and Vice President Gore respect the role the Boy Scouts play in our society and will not allow them to be shut out of federal lands."

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Dwight D. Eisenhower

Before Dwight D. Eisenhower was elected president, he served as supreme commander of Allied forces in Europe during World War II. In 1945, General Eisenhower led the Wastepaper Campaign to reduce consumption of resources during the war. More than 700,000 Boy Scouts and Cubs participated in the project, and the Boy Scouts of America awarded Eisenhower a gold medal for his leadership efforts. He became a member of their National Executive Board in 1948. As president of the United States, Eisenhower praised the organization during Boy Scout Week in 1955: “Self-development and service to others, independence and good citizenship, a sense of brotherhood and responsiveness to spiritual values—these qualities which Scouting fosters mean much to America.” 

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Harrison Ford

While being a Life Scout (the second-highest Scout ranking) influenced Harrison Ford’s life, his years with the league also found their way into his movies. He and a former Eagle Scout, director Steven Spielberg, decided to make the young Indiana Jones a Life Scout in Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade. Ford also worked at Scout Camp as a counselor for the Reptile Study merit badge, which was cheekily reversed into Indiana’s fear of snakes. The actor’s Scouting skills came into use in 2001, when he rescued a young Boy Scout lost in a corner of Yellowstone near his Jackson home. "Boy, you sure must have earned a merit badge for this one," said the on- and off-screen hero. 

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Bill Gates

He may have been a boy genius, but Bill Gates found Boy Scout Troop 186 in Seattle to be a challenge. While he said Scouting generally was a “very positive memory,” he didn’t go so much for the cooking and hiking. Former Scoutmaster Don Van Wierengen remembers Gates wanting to demonstrate his computer skills at a Scouts show where most boys were demonstrating outdoor skills. The famous nerd did better than persevere, eventually achieving the rank of Life Scout and in 2010 winning the Silver Buffalo Award, the highest honor given by the Boy Scouts of America. The Microsoft exec was awarded his final badge in honor of his humanitarian work through the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. 

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John Wayne

We remember John Wayne for being the rugged, rifle-wielding outdoorsman on screen, so it’s no surprise that he was a dedicated Boy Scout. In fact, one of his last public appearances was at a benefit dinner for a land purchase for a Scout Reservation that would be named after him: John Wayne Outpost Camp. Dying of cancer, Wayne spoke of the importance of the 12 points of Scout Law. They’re “nice words,” he said. "Trouble is, we learn them so young we sometimes don't get all the understanding that goes with them. I take care of that in my family. As each boy reaches Scout age, I make sure he learns the Scout Law. Then I break it down for him, with a few things I have picked up in more than half a century since I learned it."

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John F. Kennedy

John F. Kennedy held many Boy Scouts of America council positions throughout his lifetime. At 12, young Jack, as he was called, joined Boy Scout Troop 2 after his family moved to Bronxville, N.Y. Later, the politician became active in the Boston Council from 1946 to 1955, serving as district chairman, executive-board member, president, and National Council representative for various periods. In 1961, he became honorary president of the national organization of Boy Scouts of America, after becoming the first Scout to be elected president of the United States.  

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Steven Spielberg

Steven Spielberg may be an A-list director, but the Jaws, Jurassic Park, and E.T. director also was the best of the Boy Scouts. The young Spielberg made the rank of Eagle Scout, the black belt of Scout rankings. He served on the national Boy Scouts board for years, but resigned in 2001 after the organization refused to repeal its policy against gays. "The last few years in scouting have deeply saddened me to see the Boy Scouts of America actively and publicly participating in discrimination. It's a real shame," Spielberg said from a prepared statement. "Once scouting fully opens its doors to all who desire the same experience that so fully enriched me as a young person, I will be happy to reconsider a role."