Scout MasterMore than 80 years ago, Thomas Shelton Boggess Jr. became an Eagle Scout. Now, at age 96, he's an elder statesman and the leader of a legacy.
By Lauren Proper
Phoenix His birth certificate says Thomas Shelton Boggess Jr., but close friends and family call him T.S., Granddad or T2. He's not the Terminator by any means — from his strong Southern accent to his tiny frame, the two men might as well be opposites. T2 is, however, a living piece of history.
Boggess is one of the nation's oldest living Eagle Scouts, having achieved the honor at the age of 14 in 1926. But that's just one piece of the Boggess family's scouting legacy. Even more impressive is the fact that his son, grandson and great-grandson have all followed in Granddad's footsteps. Every Thomas Shelton Boggess, from Jr. (T2) to V (T5), is officially an Eagle Scout.
President Bush recognized this achievement about a year ago during a short trip to Arizona, when he arranged to meet all four generations of the Boggesses on the tarmac at Sky Harbor International Airport.
"I reckon the biggest thrill, other than meeting Bush, was when they took us on Air Force One. Of course, I was in this wheelchair and I thought they'd just take a lift and lift me up," Boggess Jr. says, laughing. "They had four Marines that picked me up and carried me up there, just like I was a baby."
The experience was more memorable for T.S. than when he met another president more than 70 years earlier, in 1931. Herbert Hoover greeted T.S. and the rest of his Eagle Scouts troop before posing for a picture, which was about all the time he spent with the boys. And although he says President Bush was more cordial, Boggess still counts meeting Hoover — with his cigarette-smoking Secret Service men hiding in the bushes on the White House lawn — among his most precious Eagle Scout memories.
"Scouting has always been my first love," Boggess says. "I think you can take a boy and make a man out of him."
Boggess' other love also runs in the family. Following the tradition of his farming forefathers, T.S. grew up working their land in the small town of Macon, Mississippi, and obtained a degree in chemistry and a master's degree in biochemistry, which he put to work as a government scientist and professor.
Recently, Boggess took a trip out to his family's historic 167-year-old farm, which is still in use and maintained by his son, Tom Boggess III. He can't walk the perimeter anymore, but for years to come, one Thomas Shelton Boggess or another will likely pour his blood and sweat into that same Southern soil — if for nothing more than the tradition.