The Last Boy Scout

Boy Scouts of America celebrates its 100th anniversary this year.

Founded by Chicago publisher W. D. Boyce in 1910 after a trip to England, based upon the ideas set forth by Lord Robert Baden Powell, the motto for which is “Be Prepared.”

Rusk County native and Eagle Scout Johnny Sproles knows a thing or two about being prepared.

During a duck hunting trip with friend and mentor C.L. Hopson in December 1953, Sproles saved the lives of two men who had fallen into the frigid waters of the river.

Hopson immediately went to get help, cautioning young Sproles to keep his eye on the men and to not enter the freezing water himself. But when one of the men went under, Sproles was prepared.

Using the training and knowledge he gained through scouting, Sproles swam out to the man and eventually saved the lives of two men.

“‘Be prepared’ means to be prepared for anything,” Sproles said. “While you never know just what life is going to send your way, scouting teaches you that, wherever you are or whatever is happening, you need to look ahead and see things through […] with time it becomes a way of life.”

For his courage in the face of danger and heroic efforts, risking his life to save the lives of others, the 18-year old Eagle Scout from the small town of Price received the highest honor the organization offers: The Boy Scouts of America Medal of Honor.

In 2003, in honor of the 50th anniversary, Sproles was recognized by the Texas Legislature for the rescue. With the son of the man who was with Sproles that day, State Rep. Chuck Hopson, R-Jacksonville.

“The honor was very humbling, and I was appreciative, but I have to give credit to what I learned through scouting that prepared me to act when the circumstances called for it,” Sproles said.

Johnny Sproles shows some of the memorabilia and accolades he has  collected over the years as a Boy Scout, as well as during his time in  the military.

Sproles joined Boy Scouts at age 12 and credits the organization for being a guiding light at a pivotal moment in his life – the transition from boyhood to manhood.

All told, Sproles spent more than 20 years in Boy Scouts. First as a scout and later as a scoutmaster, retiring when his work schedule precluded the level of involvement required.

“It took me from being a boy and gave me so much that later helped me as a man,” Sproles said.

Sproles still supports the organization and says that, while the times may have changed, the mission and purpose of scouting remain the same.

“In those days, there wasn’t television or cell phones or any of the other electronic gadgets that so many young people have now,” Sproles said. “We played sports but it didn’t take up so much of our lives like it does for families now […] outside the home, we had church, school and scouting.”

Sproles wonders if many of the problems affecting the lives of American youth could be aided by how the organization is geared toward preparing young people for the challenges of adulthood.

Whether it was during his time in the military, in his career, or even as a husband and father, the values and life lessons found in scouting continue to stay with Johnny Sproles.

“The things I learned in scouting helped me in so many ways,” Sproles said. “It helped to open doors and gave me a headstart in life. You can’t put a price tag on how valuable it is in a man’s life.”

In the last 100 years, scouting has grown into a worldwide phenomenon. There are more than 500 different programs for both boys and girls in 185 countries around the globe.

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