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Green Bar Bill Hillcourt's
Impact on Wood Badge

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The first US Wood Badge Scoutmaster


As the Boy Scout program program matured in the USA, it became apparent that Wood Badge could provide valuable advanced training. To familarize the United States with Wood Badge, John Skinner Wilson, Gilwell Park Camp Chief, came from England to provide a Rover Scout Wood Badge Course for BSA at New Jersey's Mortimer L. Schiff Scout Reservation.

Bill Hillcourt was a member of the Burnham Patrol on that WB Course, May 12-20, 1936. Four days later, May 24 to June 3, 1936, Bill was the Staff Troop Leader and "Dog's Body" (Senior Patrol Leader) for a second course. It qualified Bill to receive his WB Beads in 1939, and to become the national Deputy Camp Chief of the United States.

After World War II and a BSA training hiatus, Wood Badge was re-awakened to become a permanent part of the American Scouting scene.

Early in 1948, the new Scout Executive who had replaced Dr. James E. West, appointed four national Staffers to get Wood Badge underway as a national training standard. Bill Hillcourt was one of the four, BSA's first Deputy Camp Chief and by then, also the national Director of Scoutcraft.

These four national Professional Staffers decided from the start that two BSA Wood Badge courses would be run in 1948:

  • the first at NJ's Schiff Scout Reservation with Scouters mostly from the Northeast, as a proving ground for this BSA WB training
    (Course #1, July 21 - August 8, 1948)

  • the second at Philmont Scout Ranch in New Mexico, would be fine-tuned to become the standard of Wood Badge for the BSA 
    (Course #2, October 2- 10, 1948)

William "Green Bar Bill" Hillcourt was the Scoutmaster for both.


The Philmont course was held Cimarroncito. Thirty-five (35) men mostly from the Western parts of the U.S., assembled at Philmont's "Big House" at noon on October 2, 1948, to launch BSA's Wood Badge.

The course started tenuously with Professional Scouters pitted against Volunteer Scouters. SM Bill Hillcourt regrouped his Staff and broke an impasse. Patrol spirit soared and Participants overcame the obstacles of high altitude, physical and mental fatigue, slow and difficult supply deliveries, poor communications with the Philmont Ranch, and bad weather with rain, sleet, snow, and cold!

Philmont's Wood Badge #2 Course followed that of WB #1:
it was unquestionably a mountain-top experience. Tired Scouters returned home with strong, enthusiastic feelings; the future of Wood Badge in BSA was assured.


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William "Green Bar Bill" Hillcourt's Totem became a circle with"WILLIAM HILLCOURT" as it's circumference; "Bill" was handwritten at an angle over a PL's two green bars inside the circle; at its bottom, two leather throngs came out of a WB Woggle; the left one held three beads and the right one, two beads -- Bill was a "5-Beader"!

Thanks to Joe Fisher of the Longs Peak Council, a personal friend of Bill's for the above narrative. Joe last visited with Bill a year before his death at his Manlius, NY home.
And also to Jeff Bogart, Course Director WM-62-2-98 held at Philmont's Zastro Camp which was held 50 years after Bill Hillcourt conducted the first   US Wood Badge courses.

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Copyright 1996-2000, Mike Barnard, Joe Fisher and Jeff Bogart.  All rights reserved. This material is for personal use only. Republication and redissemination, including posting to news groups, is expressly prohibited without prior written consent.  Last Modified: 09:53 on December 28, 2001

Views expressed on these pages may not necessarily represent those of the Boy Scouts of America. While every effort has been made to ensure the accuracy of this information, nothing here should be interpreted as official policy.