When he was around the age of 12, Fred Burns, Jr., asked his parents if he could join the Marlinton Boy Scouts. By the age of 16, he had earned his Eagle Scout award – the highest rank a young man can achieve in scouting.
“I started working toward Eagle Scout pretty shortly after I joined,” he said. “It’s a long process. You have to earn so many badges and go through many different things. It takes a long time.”
Scouts must earn a total of 21 merit badges, be active members of their community and carry out a service project in their community, among other requirements to earn an Eagle Scout award.
It’s a rigorous test of skill, knowledge and dedication, but Burns said it was all worth it.
The Marlinton Boy Scouts were led by Bob Jones and Allen Young, who instilled the scouts with all the traits it takes to be leaders in their community.
“They did a great job with it,” Burns said. “We had a good Boy Scout troop. Did a lot of great things. We made a lot of trips to Lone Tree Knob, camping out. It’s a long walk up that mountain. We would go up there and cook out. It was good training for scouts.”
Although Burns was the first Eagle Scout in Pocahontas County, he was closely followed by three other scouts – Basil Price Sharp, Allen Young and Jon Young – and he chose to receive his award at the same time as the other three boys.
The four were honored at a dinner and received their awards from the Court of Honor on March 13, 1953.
“We were all working toward it, and I was just lucky enough to reach the goal first,” Burns said. “They were right close to me, so they asked me to wait until they all got theirs, and we all celebrated at the same time.”
Looking back, Burns said he credits Boy Scouts with giving him the skills to become a leader in his future endeavors – from playing sports in high school, to attending West Virginia University, to the Army and to his years at the family business, Burns Motor Freight.
“It was a great leadership training program,” Burns said. “That’s where I give Boy Scouts credit for my leadership ability. I learned a lot from there to the Army, to all the different steps I went through in my life.
“I go back and give credit to that and 4-H,” he continued. “Four-H is another great organization for young people. You learn a lot there.”
Boy Scouts, 4-H, and a lot of personal commitment and motivation set Burns on the right path in life.
He graduated from Marlinton High School in 1954, West Virginia University in 1958, married Carolyn Barlow December 21, 1958, was on active duty in the Army in 1959, and returned home to work for his father in 1960.
“Boy Scouts wasn’t my total education in leadership,” he said. “I learned as I went along, but from the Boy Scouts to high school, college – you gain leadership abilities in those different steps and when I went into the Army, I had some leadership possibilities, and I’ve reached some goals in my life that I really didn’t reach out for.
“I was president of the West Virginia Trucking Association, which is a state-wide organization,” he con- tinued. “I didn’t work to get that position, but I was asked to take that position because of my leadership ability. The same with the American Trucking Association. I’m the only small carrier that was ever chairman of the board of the American Trucking Association.”
Burns is proud of all the roles he has held through the years, and when he reflects on his career path, he is cognizant of those formative years in scouting and 4-H.
After more than 60 years with the family business, Burns is now the chairman of the board and is semi-retired.
“I’m trying very hard,” he said, of retiring. “My wife is insisting on it. It’s hard to do. I just like to be active. I like to take off a day or two a week to play golf, but I like to go to the office and do things there, too.”
In other words, he’s still working and persevering like an Eagle Scout.
Interested in joining 4-H?
Contact the Pocahontas County Extension Office at 304-799-4852 to find a club in your area.
Interested in joining Girl Scouts?
Call Cindy Shreve, 304-799-2645; or Debby Kemmerling, 304-880-3038 or email debby.kemmerling@ bdgs.org
Want to join a Boy Scout Troop?
Contact Randy Irvine at 304-799-6730.
Think you want to be an Eagle Scout?
Here’s a little bit of information for you to consider:
A total of 21 merit badges (10 more than required for the Life rank) must be earned for the Eagle Scout rank, including these 14 merit badges: (a) First Aid, (b) Citizenship in the Community, (c) Citizenship in the Nation, (d) Citizenship in Society, (e) Citizenship in the World, (f) Communication, (g) Cooking, (h) Personal Fitness, (i) Emergency Preparedness OR Lifesaving, (j) Environmental Science OR Sustainability, (k) Personal Management, (l) Swimming OR Hiking OR Cycling, (m) Camping, and (n) Family Life.
To learn more about scouting, visit scoutingnews room.org/about-the-bsa/fact-sheets/eagle-scouts/
“The sport in Scouting is to find the good in every boy and develop it.” ~ Lord Robert Baden-Powell