James E. West Fellowship

Who is James E. West (1876-1948)?

Orphaned at age six and afflicted with tuberculosis, James E. West never had much of a childhood. West had to fight for permission to attend school outside of his orphanage—and only if he did his extensive orphanage chores before and after school. Nonetheless, he finished high school in two years, graduating with honors in 1895. By 1901, he’d worked his way through law school and was practicing law in Washington, D.C.


Given those circumstances, it was not surprising West gravitated toward children’s issues. When a young boy stole his car, he declined to press charges, offering instead to represent the boy in court (he got him off on a technicality). This incident led West to lobby successfully for the creation of a juvenile court. He also worked for the Washington Playground Association and the YMCA and prompted President Theodore Roosevelt to convene a White House Conference on Dependent Children in 1909.  Given his background, West became a natural choice to serve as the first Chief Scout Executive. He agreed to take the job for up to six months and stayed on for 32 years.


How to become a James E. West Fellow:

The James E. West Fellowship is a way to recognize those who have contributed to a council’s endowment fund. Those who contribute to the endowment fund at least $1,000 above their annual Friends of Scouting contribution are eligible for the bronze award, the silver award is reserved for over $5,000, the gold award is for $10,000 and the diamond award is $15,000 or more.

Contact the Scout Executive/CEO Jared Smith for more information at 740.453.0571 or jared.smith@scouting.org