Explorations in Black Leadership

Co-Directed by Phyllis Leffler & Julian Bond

Boy Scouts and the Military: Positive and Negative Role Models

BOND: What about other adult figures? I read about Alex Outerbridge, Scout leader.

RUSH: Oh, yeah. He was a magnificent man. You know, my — I didn't have a father in the house and so my mother, one of the first things that she did when we moved from south to north was enroll us or install us in the Boy Scouts, and Alex Outerbridge was my Boy Scout leader and he took time with us. We went to different places with him. Chicago has a parade called Black Billiken Parade, and every year literally hundreds of thousands of people gather along King Drive. It used to be South Park Avenue. It's one of the biggest black parades in the country, the Black Billiken Parade, and Mr. Outerbridge — I remember him playing a silver bugle in that parade and that was the first time I'd seen that many people at one time, and marching down King Drive with my Boy Scout uniform and playing in the drum and bugle corps. I never will forget that. He took me on my first camping trip, our troop on our first camping trip, so he, you know, again, through that process, I learned to have confidence in myself, learned how to set goals. I learned how to meet those goals, and I wanted to achieve and I wanted to do things. I wanted to excel, and I picked that up also through the Boy Scouts.

BOND: And you went in the service.

RUSH: I went in the service.

BOND: And you had an encounter with a racist sergeant, Sergeant — ?

RUSH: No, it was battery commander, Lieutenant Rogers. He was a Southern guy from Alabama, and this was during the nascent days of the civil rights movement, and then we were — and I began my consciousness, which was really developed at Franklin, you know, my racial consciousness began to develop at Franklin. And so this guy was someone who used every opportunity to try to suppress my efforts to, you know, be a black man. He really wanted to — he went out after the blacks in the troop there in the battery, and so I rebelled against him, you know, and we clashed a lot and I thought that he was a racist, but he would go out of his way. I mean, I became a discipline problem for the service. I had Article 15s, almost to the point of a court-martial, but somehow the Lord prevailed and I wasn't court-martialed. I was honorably discharged from the service, so — but Lieutenant Rogers was somebody who stands out in my mind as probably being one of the most vehement racists that I've known.

BOND: Do you think it's fair to say that in a negative way he had a positive influence on you?

RUSH: Oh, absolutely.

BOND: That you tried to overcome.

RUSH: Oh, absolutely. You know, iron sharpens iron, that's a proverb in the Bible and so I, yeah, he helped build character because he forced me to stand up for what I believed in and not to retreat from it. And I mean, I even got to a point where we had this — I mean, this was during the beginning of the Black Power movement and so he would — I got to a point where I was in such a state of rebellion against him I would wear Black Power buttons on my Army uniform, you know, and at that time you couldn't have a moustache and, man, I would come to the base with a moustache and everything, man, so it got to be a real thing between he and I. He would come at me and I would come right back at him in certain ways.