Dr. David Briscoe was born and raised in the rural community of Mars Hill, NC. Though he was growing up in the segregated south in the 50's and 60's, he said it wasn't quite as turbulent as other places because "we were all farmers, and we helped each other." As the youngest of nine children, David was focused on family life. That is, until something caught his eye.
Each year Mars Hill had a parade on Thanksgiving day and one year, young David saw a group of boys marching in the parade in uniform. He says they looked so good in those uniforms that he wanted to be like them. It was Troop 102, but segregation was still a part of the world so, as an African American boy David couldn't join.
A couple of years later, David met another boy riding home from school on the bus and the boy had a tattered old book. When he realized that it was a Boy Scout handbook, David offered him a whole week's lunch money ($1.25) to buy the book from him. "I still have that book. It is a treasured possession that I would never part with." At his local school library he stumbled across copies of Boys' Life and, realizing that this was about Boy Scouts too, the desire to be a Boy Scout continued to grow.
Since there was no black troop in Mars Hill, young David wrote a letter to the National office of the BSA asking them to start a troop there. They responded and told him who was in charge of the Daniel Boone council where he lived. This was April 1965 - by June, Troop 85 was formed.
Life as a Boy Scout was good. Dr. Briscoe remembers hitchhiking to nearby Asheville to attend a Scout-O-Rama. He remembers his first summer camp in 1967 and the aquatics director who nearly scared him to death because he insisted on doing the rescue training at night. He remembers several other young men who seemed to have "stepped right out of a Norman Rockwell picture" and who represented the values of Scouting to him. They became his role models.
"I used to go out daily to find someone to do a good turn for because the book said that was what I was supposed to do." "The values of Scouting shaped me, both as a boy and as an adult. They are still shaping me." So, it's not surprising to learn that, with the role models and values he found, David Briscoe became an Eagle Scout in September of 1968.
But there was no "Eagling out" for David Briscoe. He stayed involved throughout his college studies and in 1974, Dr. Briscoe moved to Little Rock where he immediately plugged into the local Scouting program with the Quapaw Area Council. He has been involved ever since. In fact, this June Dr. Briscoe will celebrate 57 continuous years of service with the BSA. During that tenure he has been recognized with countless awards, including the Distinguished Eagle Scout Award, the Distinguished Service Award from the Order of the Arrow, and the Silver Buffalo, the highest award given to volunteers in Scouting.
When asked why he has chosen to invest so much of his life in the BSA, Dr. Briscoe said that it was because of the Ideals of Scouting - the Scout Oath and Law, the Scout slogan and motto. Those things have shaped him and he believes that they are the key to the future of our world. "What if every boy and girl who is a Scout would do a good turn daily? What kind of difference would that make?"
Among other roles, today Dr. Briscoe is serving as the Diversity Lead for National Service Territory 8, seeking to help get the Scouting program into every group. "I want every boy and girl in America, regardless of race, creed or background, to have at least an equal Scouting experience as I have had because Scouting has shaped my life."
This is the third article in a series for Black History Month. The first article can be found here and the second article here. It was taken from an interview with Dr. David Briscoe on Feb 22, 2022. You may listen to the entire interview here.