Earning every Boy Scout merit badge

Dan Bates served on the staff at Camp Maple Dell for at least the part of one summer when I was on junior staff there, in Utah’s Payson Canyon (1969? 1970?). Maple Dell is a Boy Scout camp operated by the Utah National Parks Council, B.S.A.

I remember Dan because he was one of those overachieving guys who had earned every possible merit badge — 121 at the time, if I recall correctly. By comparison, there are 21 merit badges necessary to earn Eagle Scout (which Dan is, also).

It didn’t go to his head at all. Dan was a great guy, from Heber, Utah, a small town up Provo Canyon in one of the world’s most beautiful valleys. Heber used to be separated from much of Utah by snow every year, but the roads are kept clear these days.

Once I asked Dan what possessed him to get every merit badge, and without pausing long, he said, “What else do you do in Heber in the winter?” It was a flip answer unexpected from the usually more sober Bates.

I think about Dan this time of year when the news stories start appearing about a new Scout, somewhere, who has earned every merit badge. One of the common themes of these stories: Has anyone else ever done it?

Eagle Scout Travis Cochran, California, holder of every merit badge

Eagle Scout Travis Cochran, California, holder of every merit badge

In The Press-Enterprise in San Bernardino, County, California, for example, the June 25 issue reports the achievements of Travis Cochran:

If Don Townsend was a betting man he’d put money on the fact that Travis Cochran is the only Boy Scout to have earned every merit badge and the Bronze and Silver Hornaday Medals.

Cochran, 18, of Cedarpines Park, earned 122 merit badges during his scouting career. Twenty-one merit badges must be earned to reach the rank of Eagle Scout.

There is a qualification in this story — Cochran also earned the Bronze and Silver Hornaday Conservation Medals — but you see the drift.

Alas, there is no central location for information about such achievements that I have ever found. Tracking the achievements of Boy Scouts, like the tremendous accomplishments of Scouts Dan Bates and Travis Cochran, generally falls to the local unit. Sometimes a local Boy Scout Council will have some information, but usually not.

History sneaks away so often because no one bothers to invite it to stick around.

Do you know of other Boy Scouts who earned every possible merit badge? We had one such Scout in the Circle 10 Council (Dallas) last year. How many others sneaked by without the hoopla they deserve?

Dan Bates, where are you these days?

Update, August 2009:  Dan Bates has been found!

Dan wrote in from Mesa, Arizona, and the Grand Canyon Council — see his note in comments, below.  Turns out I remembered it incorrectly — he had 100 merit badges, but not all of them.  His brother got them all.  Glad for the correction.  Happier to have found Mr. Bates.

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18 Responses to Earning every Boy Scout merit badge

  1. John Teske says:

    My son earned his Eagle at 13. Later on he earned the 124 merit badges available. He earned 9 at Camp and the rest from individual merit badge counselors. He still has all the cards. The number of total merit badges varies from year to year as changes are made by National.

    Yours in Scouting, John Teske


  2. Javier says:

    I forgot to mention there is no such wearing of two satchels… and too many medals is tacky and agains the humble character a scout should display…


  3. Javier says:

    My son is 12 and is a first class scout with all of the requirements for star scout except the time in grade…… If you kid is a webelos scout and gets arrow of light he can become a scout 6 months after 10th bday. It is almost impossible to get to eagle at 12. Youd have to fly through requirements like crazy… my kid has been to 2 summer encamptments and 1 winter… plus he never misses merit badge marathons and other activities… he has completed 21 merit badges but still needs eagle merit badges to complete life and eagle requirements. He will also need 4 months as first class, 6 months as star and 6 as life to get eagle rank. that means another 2 years… that would make him 14!


  4. Ed Darrell says:

    It is just technically possible to earn an Eagle at 12. Not many do, and some Scoutmasters discourage it.

    But Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer did. And from my conversations with him, I understand he did it on his own, out of his love for the work and the learning.


  5. Trey says:

    Uhm I am sorry Teresa Simmonson, but how in the world did your son get eagle at 12? It’s almost pointless at that age. I do NOT understand why or how he managed to make it at 12. That just seems idiotic and probably a little pushy on your son.


  6. eric says:

    There should be a merit badge for getting all the merit badges!


  7. Terresa Simonson says:

    It was wonderful to read about the “extreme” successes of our young men. My son has set the goal to earn all the merit badges (126 including the 4 historical ones only available this year). So far, he’s got 61, and earned his Eagle at 12 years old. I’m currently planning his Court of Honor, and stumbled across this site while looking for ideas on the internet. Way to go!


  8. Jon Gellings says:

    I’m SPL of Troop 562 in New Kent, VA 23141. I have not one, but TWO Eagles in my troop who have all the merit badges. They also happen to be brothers and at tonight’s meeting, they both got another palm.


  9. Ed Darrell says:

    Dan! How nice of you to drop by.

    You didn’t get ’em all? Hmmmm. I’ll have to rat you out to the people pushing for the knot. No matter.

    Good to hear you’re alive and Scouting. Personally, I think I’d take Heber over Mesa . . . but here I am in Dallas, so I can’t talk.

    I’ll send you an e-mail, assuming you listed it.


  10. Dan Bates says:

    Just a little follow up note… Utah National Parks council at the time had a rule that a Scout could only feceive 3 merit badges a month no more. and so the 100 that I received represented a sustained effort of 33 consecutive months beginning with my 11th birthday and fishing ( my least favorite ) on the 34th month


  11. Dan Bates says:

    Well this is an interesting twist! I heard about this website from the Varsity Coach affiliated with the Troop I work with at present in Mesa AZ Grand Canyon Council. I would be that Dan Bates of whom the writer muses. and although the details are a bit off ( I stopped at 100 Merit Badges and was the first youth in the State of Utah to receive the FULL Hornaday Medal as the requirements were written in those days and it was my younger brother Kent who got the full group of merit badges available at the time, and as we know the total number has fluctuated over the years with some being added and others being dropped or combined. Kent now lives in Greensboro NC)
    I would love to hear back from the writer of the article. and a hearty Thank You for remembering me so kindly!
    Dan Bates


  12. Some Guy says:

    If this happened in 1970, then why does he have both the Climbing and Disabilities Awareness merit badges, both of which were introduced in the 1990s?

    Furthermore, Sports was required, and no one wears both the Eagle badge AND the square not. Bologna.


  13. It would be great to design an Evolution merit badge. Based on Darwin’s “I think” tree sketch.


  14. Troy Pugh says:

    I have been compiling a list of scouts who have earned all the merit badges during their time as a scout. Please visit http://www.meritbadgeknot.com to see the list. Please let me know of others that can be included in the list. Thanks!


  15. Michelle Paluck says:

    Here’s another scout who has earned all 121 merit badges: Roland Salatino, of Troop 577, Circle Ten Council, Dallas, Texas, on January 15, 2008. What is more remarkable is that he was 13 years old at that time. He earned his Eagle rank on 10/15/07. He also has earned the Hornaday Badge, and is now working on the Bronze Hornaday.

    (I am the Advancement Chair for Troop 577.)


  16. “History sneaks away so often because no one bothers to invite it to stick around.” Great observation that another blogger saw here and left on my site. I may quote you in the future.


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