James E West

James Edward West (May 16, 1876 – May 15, 1948) was a lawyer and an advocate of children's rights, who became the first professional Executive Secretary, soon renamed Chief Scout Executive, of the Boy Scouts of America (BSA), serving from 1911 to 1943. Upon his retirement from the BSA, West was given the title of Chief Scout.

The highly organized national structure that West created was a key to the BSA's growth and reputation. He initially was not in favor of the Cub Scouting program for younger boys, feeling that its creation would take attention away from the main programs, Boy Scouts and Explorer Scouts for youths aged 11–17. He was convinced by the popularity of pilot programs in America that were similar to Wolf Cubs in England and Canada, and Cub Scouting was eventually introduced in 1930.

After West retired as Chief Scout Executive, Dr. Elbert K. Fretwell succeeded him. Upon retirement, West was given the title of "Chief Scout" of the BSA, the same title that Seton had held. West served on the World Scout Committee of the World Organization of the Scout Movement from 1939 until 1947. International Scouting honored him with the Bronze Wolf Award. He lived in New Rochelle in Westchester County,New York and is buried in Kensico Cemetery in nearby Valhalla.

In 1993, the BSA created the James E. West Fellowship Award for individuals who contribute $1,000 or more in cash or securities to their local council endowment trust fund. The award can be made in payments for up to three years from the initial pledge date.

If you or your unit would like to contribute a James E. West Fellowship Award recognizing an outstanding individual, please contact Dan Rogers at 706-733-5277. 


James E West Award Application