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Paul Coates -- Confidential File, February 6, 1959

February 6, 2009 |  2:00 pm


Good Scout's Bid Makes Cub Happy

Paul_coates_3 I promised you this report.

It's my final one, I hope, on a kid named Butch Harris, who a few months ago got his first lesson in how little some big people act.

Nine-year-old Butch was refused membership in Cub Pack 298, here in L.A., because he is a Negro.

The decision was made by several parents of pack members that their children "weren't ready to integrate."

For the past weeks, certain adult leaders of the pack refused to compromise their stand, in spite of efforts by both the Boy Scouts and the sponsoring Kiwanis Club to settle the matter quietly and peacefully.

But it seemed that the harder the Boy Scout organization worked to bring about understanding, the more determined the opposition became.

One parent who said he saw no reason why Butch shouldn't be allowed in the pack suddenly found himself minus any number of "friends" he'd known for years.

The man's wife began getting the "cold" treatment from neighbors.

1959_feb_6_cover_3 The situation got loud and messy. Unbelievably messy. After listening to all they could stand, a few parents gave up, pulling their sons out of the pack.

The "segregation" element became louder, more adamant.

Then, a couple weeks ago, local Scout authorities realized that the situation was hopeless. They issued their ultimatum: Make 298 an open pack or lose your charter.

Mass resignations followed.

Today, Pack 298 has three members. Butch is one of them. The other two are also Negro boys.

But it's an open pack. A few parents of former members have already indicated that they're ready to put their boys back into uniform. The sponsoring Kiwanis group is confident that 298 will build up again into a fine organization.

I hope so, and I'm not the only one.

Personal Letter to Butch

1959_0206_runover A letter arrived at Butch Harris' house this week from another of his many friends. It was written on state of California stationery. It read:

"Dear Butch:

"By the time you receive this letter I trust you will be a fine Cub Scout.

"You know, Butch, my wife and I have mentioned several times how very much we would like to have you see the Capitol of our wonderful state of California.

"This is a little invitation to you to visit us for a day during your spring vacation. You talk this over with your mother and father and if they agree to let you come all the way to Sacramento, we will take care of your transportation.

"Both my wife and I think that it would be nice for a young man who will no doubt become an outstanding Boy Scout some day to see your state officeholders -- the men who are elected to office -- work.

"Please let me know if you would like to come visit us."

The letter was signed: Glen M. Anderson, lieutenant governor.