Antonio “Tony” Hodges Johnson became the first African-American Eagle Scout in Troop 334. His Court of Honor Ceremony took place on June 12 at Clearview United Methodist Church.
BY KARIN DAVIS-THOMPSON, Staff Writer
ST. PETERSBURG — It took several years and a lot of planning and preparation, but Antonio “Tony” Hodges Johnson said he doesn’t regret one minute of it. Earlier this year, Tony made history when he became the first African-American Eagle Scout in Troop 334.
Becoming an Eagle Scout is the highest honor a boy scout can achieve, and no doubt it took perseverance and a winning attitude.
“It took me about nine years to achieve the rank,” the 18-year-old said. “The hardest part is having the drive to complete your project. It was the most planning and preparation I had ever done for a project.”
A student at Admiral Farragut Academy, Tony said he’s been involved in scouting since he was about eight. He said being a part of the program and working to achieve the group’s highest honor has really benefitted him over the years.
“I wanted to do this because I wanted the skills and the overall lesson you get learn from the program,” he said. “It really does change a boy into a leader.”
To become an Eagle Scout, scouts must be an active troop member for six months as a Life Scout, a scout the demonstrates scout spirit by showing that he is living the organization’s oath. They must also earn at least 21 merit badges, have held certain positions during their time as a scout such as patrol leader, plan, develop and execute a service project, and participate in the group’s scoutmaster conference.
Tony’s grandmother, Annie M. Hodges-Robinson, said she couldn’t be prouder of what her grandson has accomplished.
“He has come a long way to make it to this point,” she said, adding that she was overjoyed to see her grandson flanked with two friends as he walked down the aisle to receive his badge.
Hodges-Robinson also stressed that while there are no words to describe how much she appreciates the organization and its impact on Tony’s life, she is saddened that there aren’t more African-American scouts with the Eagle Scout rank or participating in the organization as a whole.
“The number is low and that needs to change,” she asserted. “There is so much opportunity there.”
She said she hopes more children of color will look at what the Boy Scouts has to offer.
“It’s a diverse organization for all people no matter color, religion or gender,” Hodges-Robinson said. “Even if you are shy but you like adventure and learning different things, then scouts might be the right fit.”
Tony agrees and said he hopes more people of color will give the organization another look.
“Do it,” he said. “It’s an adventure you’ll never forget.”