The first African American Eagle Scout in the United States was from Rome, NY, according recently found documents.

The Boy Scouts of America's Adult Leaders Blog says new research shows Hamilton Bradley became first Black Eagle Scout on December 19, 1919 - more than 100 years ago. Until the discovery, it was thought the Boy Scouts' first African American Eagle Scout hailed from Missouri.

The blog credits the find to a Utica-area scout volunteer, Brendan Kelly:

Credit for the discovery goes to Brendan Kelly, an Eagle Scout and Scouting volunteer from the Leatherstocking Council based in Utica, N.Y. Kelly was completing research for the 100th anniversary of one of his council’s camps when he saw a story about an African American Eagle Scout who earned the award in Scouting’s earliest days.

Evidence includes newspaper article clippings from the Rome Daily Sentinel on December 18, 1919, along with the official Year Book of the Rome Council: Boy Scouts of America 1920.

Hamilton Bradley became America's first African American Eagle Scout in 1919(credit: Boy Scouts of American Leatherstocking Council)

Those records show Hamilton Bradley became an Eagle Scout at least nine months before Harry Cooper of Missouri, who was previously thought to be the Boy Scouts' first Eagle Scout who was Black. Bradley's Eagle Scouts court of honor ceremony was held at Rome Free Academy, and records also show he was one of just three scouts to earn the Eagle Scout Award in Rome, NY in 1919.

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Bradley later became an Assistant Scout Master of Troop 2 in Rome - which meanT the Willett School, according to records (and photo below).

photo of Scout Masters and Assistants (via Boy Scouts of America Leatherstocking Council)

''This is a wonderful example as to how great our local volunteers are since Eagle Scout Alumnus Brendan Kelly had heard from his grandfather when he was a boy that the Rome troop was the first to see an African American Eagle Scout; so, when he read the original story, Brendan did the research and reached out to our national office and NAACP with the supporting documentation he found on Hamilton Bradley,” said Ray Eschenbach, Scout Executive/CEO of the Leatherstocking Council, BSA. “We support scouting families across eight counties and I can tell you, right now we are all very proud to be in the national spotlight for something this positive.”

For more information on the Boys Scouts of American in Central New York, you can log onto, or call the Boy Scouts of America Leatherstocking Council based in Utica, NY at (315) - 735 - 4437.


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