On May 12, 2011 the Boy Scouts of America honor George Rodrigue with their highest honor, the Distinguished Eagle Award. Since established by the National Eagle Scout Association in 1969, only six Eagle Scouts from the New Orleans area have received this honor, the last one twenty-two years ago in 1989.
Never have I seen George Rodrigue so excited about an award. He spoke, as he stood before the Blue Dog sculpture
on Veterans Boulevard at the press conference this week, about the impact scouting made on his life from the beginning, particularly the pursuit of merit badges:
“It gave me a chance to meet professionals in various fields, because they had to sign off on my badges. I spent hours with firefighters, police officers, and even the local funeral home director. One expert was a published historian who asked me, ‘Do you know where the name New Iberia comes from?’ I had never thought about the Spanish heritage of my hometown. I retained more about local history in that one afternoon than in twelve years of study at Catholic High.”
At the request of the Boy Scouts of America, George designed a unique patch based on his Eagle painting as a commemorative gift for the evening of May 12th. Afterwards the BSA adopts a special version for use nationally as an art badge for aspiring Eagle Scouts.
Before recounting George’s history with scouting, I share with you an adventure:
Last weekend we traveled through rural Alabama, retracing Hank Williams’ childhood. I sought history for an upcoming blog post to coincide with Jazz Fest, but George is a long-time Hank Williams fan and longed to connect more personally with the country music legend, walking through his hometown and sitting on his front porch.
We paused at a graveyard in Georgiana, Alabama. George took pictures from the air-conditioned car, as I wandered in the 97-degree heat near the back of the cemetery. Moody and distracted among the crumbling 19th century tombs and headstones, I contemplated the forgotten residents of a small southern town.
“Come see,” I called out to George, as I stared at a family’s long-neglected plot.
He snapped a photo of me just before he left the car, a black shape barely discernible in the grass to my right.
George approached quietly, as I took pictures, unaware of the danger a mere eighteen inches from my sandaled feet. Without hesitating, he pulled me away just as a cottonmouth, coiled and reared back, prepared to strike. Had he called out to me instead, I probably would have jerked or frozen or otherwise enticed the snake with my fear.
As I ran, shaking, back to the car, George grabbed the camera.
“Nobody’s gonna believe this!” he said.
Once an Eagle, Always an Eagle-
Hope to see you at this special May 12th event!
The Boy Scouts of America and the Southeast Louisiana Council cordially invite you to the 10th Annual Golden Eagle Dinner, honoring Artist George Rodrigue with the Distinguished Eagle Scout Award
May 12th, 2011
6:00 p.m. Private Reception
7:00 p.m. Dinner and Program
Sheraton Hotel New Orleans
500 Canal Street
For tickets and information contact Shane Cooley at 504-889-0388
or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org
Tickets and sponsorships start at $250, with all proceeds benefiting the thousands of young people and volunteers from the eleven parishes of the Southeast Louisiana Council, Boy Scouts of America.
(a re-post from June, 2010, with additional photographs)
It was probably our first date when I asked George Rodrigue,
It wasn’t until months later, after he’d repeated this list a number of times for various reasons, that I learned it was the Boy Scout law, something he memorized nearly sixty years ago and has taken seriously ever since.