Second Eagle award ever earned went to Florida scout

Published: Sunday, August 12, 2012 at 8:26 p.m.
Last Modified: Sunday, August 12, 2012 at 8:26 p.m.

It's well documented that Long Island, N.Y., scion Arthur Eldred was Boy Scouts' first Eagle Scout; he was approved on Aug. 1, 1912. Less known is that the second Eagle was awarded to a son of the South, Earl George Marx of Troop 3 in Jacksonville, only 11 days later.

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Gladys Kemp displays the second ever Eagle Scout award, earned by Earl Marx in 1912. Kemp's husband, John, was the district executive for the Boy Scouts in this region, and Marx's wife, Bessie, asked if he would keep it.

Alan Youngblood/Staff photographer

As in 100 years ago today.

"These two scouts, one from the North and one from the South, stand alone among their 400,000 comrades as being the only scouts who have won 21 merit badges," notes Scouting's Boys Life magazine in August of 1912.

Moreover, Marx's medal and merit badges have their home in Ocala.

"His wife, Bessie, bequeathed it to my husband when she died with the provision that it remain safe here," says Gladys Kemp, widow of long-time Marion District Executive John Kemp. Marx came to Ocala after retiring from National Airlines in the 1970s.

"Bessie called up John and asked if he could please find Earl a job in Scouting," Gladys Kemp says. "He was underfoot and she wanted to get him out of the house." Plus, it seems that Marx, despite being in his 70s, liked to rent planes at the Ocala Airport and take his grandson flying.

Kemp got him involved on the district committee and commissioner's staff.

According to an account in an early Boys Life, a young Marx discovered Scouting on a summer trip up North. When he returned home, he joined the Jacksonville troop and quickly advanced to First Class — the first in the city to achieve that rank.

He later became the first boy in Florida to earn the Life and Star ranks as well. At the time, advancement through Life and Star — the order is reversed today — was not required; for Eagle, then considered the ultimate merit badge, a boy needed be only First Class and 21 merit badges.

Among Marx's merit badges were swimming, lifesaving, civics, pioneering, first aid, first aid to animals, art, bee farming, electricity, athletics, seamanship, personal health and aviation.

Through much of his final years in Ocala, Marx attended Eagle Courts of Honor — where the award is physically bestowed upon the boy — proudly wearing his Eagle medal.

"Having him there was a great honor," says Kemp's son, John, who achieved Eagle in 1982. "It was pretty cool to tell the new Eagle Scout, ‘by the way, this gentleman was the second to receive the award.'

"He was a down-to-earth guy," Kemp adds. "I remember him always chewing a big cigar. He never smoked it, only chewed it. And he helped me get my first job.

When Marx died in June 1982 at age 85, he was the oldest living Eagle Scout in the United States.

Gladys Kemp, who continued an affiliation with Ocala Troop 439 after her husband's death in 2002, says she plans to honor the pledge to Bessie Marx and keep the award safe — though she might consider donating them to the National Scouting museum in Texas.

"Eight, twelve, twelve; that's a long time ago," Gladys says. "I'm so proud that Bessie thought that much of my husband that she would entrust all this very valuable information on her husband to him."

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