GREEN BAR BILL
Scoutmaster To The World
August 6, 1900 - November 9, 1992
American Boy Scouting has been influenced by many men; Seton, Beard, West, Hurt, and others stand out. But one man more than any other personified the life of American Boy Scouting; William Hillcourt.
Bill was a native of Denmark where he became a Boy Scout in January, 1911 at 11 years of age after he had been given the newly translated Scouting For Boys as a Christmas Gift. He became the Danish equivalent of an Eagle Scout and was sent by his Troop to the First World Jamboree in London in 1920. The success of the Danish team earned it the right to host the 2nd World Jamboree.
Bill wrote his first book at the age of 23. It was a tale of Scout camping based on his own Patrol's experiences.
New York attracted Bill in September of 1926. His first Boy Scout job was with the BSA Supply Service. Bill later convinced James West that the BSA was not using the Patrol method correctly. West challenged him to write the Handbook For Patrol Leaders.
Bill took the nickname "Green Bar Bill" from the patrol leaders badge as his Boy's Life pseudonym where he became an Assistant Editor. Green Bar Bill wrote over 300 articles for Boy's Life.
In 1934, he and his wife, Grace, moved onto the Schiff Scout Reservation. It was here that he wrote a new book for Scoutmasters. He formed Troop 1 of Mendham, New Jersey to learn firsthand, the trials and joys of a Scoutmaster.
Bill was a member of the first Wood Badge course in America at Schiff in May, 1936. He was Troop Leader and Dog's Body ( Senior Patrol Leader) for the second. He recieved his beads in 1939. This gave him the qualifications to become Deputy Camp Chief of the United States and the Scoutmaster of Wood Badge #1 in 1948.
Bill retired in 1965 after writing the popular 1959, 6th edition, of the Boy Scout Handbook. He also held the title of National Director Program Resources and was the BSA's only Director of Scoutcraft
In all, he attended 13 World Jamborees and all of the National Jamborees.
To get Scouting back on track following the introduction of "improved Scouting" in 1972, Bill was invited to come out of retirement and write the 1979, edition of the Boy Scout Handbook.
If there ever was a Scouter's Scouter, it was Bill. He breathed romance and excitement into the program. He gave Scouting it's outdoor flavor. May we never lose this taste.
This biography used information from The Scouter's Journal, a national magazine written by Scouters, for Scouters. For more information write: ScoutJourn@aol.com
The following tribute to William Hillcourt (Aug. 6, 1900 -Nov. 9, 1992) was distributed in "Jamboree Today" by the Boy Scouts of America at the 1993 National Scout Jamboree. This was the first Jamboree since the 1920's that Bill missed.
Having had the memorable privilege of meeting the beloved "Green Bar Bill", as he was known to generations of scouts, this moving tribute is shared in the hope that others will be as inspired by him, as I was.
SCOUTING REMEMBERS "GREEN BAR BILL"
... A SCOUTER FOR ALL TIME
By Dan Coberly
They were kindred spirits from another era; pioneers who have left their mark.
-Lord Baden Powell.
Two names that personify good Scouting. Two special men who truly made a difference by helping to leave the world a much better place than they found it.
Both men helped lead the largest peace movement the world has ever known, and achieved world celebrity status beyond that of a mere rock star. For, in this world well known for its profound tragedies, theirs was an uplifting message of hope to youth around the world. They were loved and respected. One was honored with the title "Chief Scout of the World.". The other was honored with the title "Scoutmaster to the World."
Chief Scout of the World Lord Baden Powell often said an ideal Scout is self- reliant, skilled as a woodsman, and is willing to teach those skills to others because he loves Scouting and the outdoor life.
That should be the epitaph of the late Bill Hillcourt who died Nov. 9, 1992. For Bill had yet another title. He was the man affectionately known by Scouts everywhere as "Green Bar Bill."
But he was also a man of many hats. Born Vilhelm Bjerregaard Jensen of Sweden, Bill was the man millions learned to emulate as the ideal Scout, teacher of Scouting skills, mentor and adviser to patrol leaders, friend and respectful lover of the woods.
Bill was also a renowned Wood Badge Course Director, writer, editor, camper, prankster, speaker, teller-of-campfire yarns and woodsman extraordinaire.
Bill Hillcourt was a man with a mission. To Bill, it seemed as though the ghost of B-P had handed him his Scout stave, like a torch being passed, and allowed Bill to carry it for a while.
And carry it he did. His Silver Buflalo citation called him "The Voice of Scouting perhaps because he is American Scouting's most prolific author, surpassed only by B-P himself. Bill wrote the Handbook for Patrol Leaders, the Scout Field Book, various editions of the Handbook for Scoutmasters, and articles for Boys' Life, Scouting, and a host of other books and magazines. "Jamboree Today" you are reading is an early product of Bill Hillcourt.
Most people who knew Bill will always remember him wearing more than one of his many hats. But in their mind's eye, in that secret place where special memories are fondly held, most will see him still looking young at the ripe old age of 92 years, still signing Scout handbooks for eager young faces at the National Scout Jamboree.
Because the hat he never took off was the hat worn by a man who never lost the boy inside.
So whenever those warm thoughts of Bill return with sadness or bring a tear to your eye, it is wise to remember that Bill loved Scouting. It was his love of Scouting and his sharp mind and strong physique that allowed him to continue doing the things he loved with the people who loved him. That mutual love kept him active until the moment that he died peacefully, in Stockholm, Sweden.
Bill Hillcourt received many tributes during his life and since his death. If Bill were here he would tell you that none is so great as your continued involvement in Scouting.
Men like Baden Powell and Hillcourt may be gone now, but their spirit lives on in every Scout uniform, in every Scout handbook, in the warmth of every Scout campfire.
Sadly, with the passing on of Bill Hillcourt to join the Great Scoutmaster in the sky comes the end of one Scouting era.
We know that Bill would think it was the beginning of something new.
Baden-Powell, Two Lives Of A Hero, 1964, with Olave, Lady Baden-Powell, Putnam
Boy Scout Handbook, 1959, 6th Edition, Boy Scouts of America
Boy Scout Handbook, 1979, Boy Scouts of America
Handbook For Scoutmasters, 1947, 4th Edition, Boy Scouts of America
Scout Field Book, 1948, with Dr. James E. West, Boy Scouts of America
Field Book of Nature Activities, 1950
Field Book of Nature Activities and Conservation, Revised and expanded, 1961, Putnam
The New Field Book of Nature Activities and Hobbies, 1970, Revised and Expanded
Physical Fitness For Boys, 1967, Golden Press Notes: "A Golden Magazine Special."
Outdoor Things To Do : Year-round Nature Fun For Girls And Boys, 1975 Golden Press
Fun With Nature Hobbies, 1970, Putnam, Series: A Cub Scout Project Book
The Golden Book of Camping; Tents and Tarpaulins, Packs and Sleeping Bags; building a camp; firemaking and outdoor cooking; canoe trips, hikes, and Indian camping, Illustrated by Ernest Kurt Barth,Revised 1971, Golden Press
Norman Rockwell's World of Scouting, 1977
Norman Rockwell's World of Scouting, 1980, 1st Fireside Edition.Simon and Schuster.
The Official Patrol Leader Handbook of the Boy Scouts of America , 1980, with contributions by Keith Monroe, 3d Edition, Boy Scouts of America
The Brownsea Story, 1982, Brownsea Jubilee Edition, 2nd Reprint, Boy Scouts of America,
The Brownsea Story, 1947, 1st Reprint, Boy Scouts of America,
The Brownsea Story, 1944, Boy Scouts of America
Back to Boy Scouts of America History & Traditions. Please help me to complete Scoutings history. E-mail any comments, questions, information, or stories to: firstname.lastname@example.org Many thanks to my fellow Scout historians, the contributors that make this site an interesting place to visit. This site is not sanctioned by The Boy Scouts of America. Last update May 27, 1996