Remembering William (Bill) Hillcourt – "Scoutmaster to the World"
24. Feb 2014
A master of Scouting skills from his youth, William (Bill) Hillcourt (1900-1992) spent a lifetime teaching them to others around the globe, earning him the title “Scoutmaster to the World”. Originally from Denmark, Bill moved to the United States of America at the age of 25 and worked at the national office of Boy Scouts of America for nearly four decades. He is the author of Baden-Powell’s first authoritative biography “Baden-Powell: The two lives of a hero” and over his lifetime became one of Scouting’s most prolific writers. Bill knew Lord and Lady Baden-Powell closely and was an ardent researcher and a great Scout communicator with a strict eye on simplicity.
Bill left his estate to the "Green Bar Bill" Hillcourt Trust (named after his most popular book for patrol leaders training). Since the trust's organization a few years after Bill's death in 1992, it has funded training for Scouts and Scout Leaders, most recently with a grant to provide scholarships to the Inter-American Region Leadership Training in Texas, where some 60 young Scouts from all over the Americas met for a week of training and fellowship.
The Trust was also a principal sponsor of "Scouting: A Centennial History Symposium" held in February 2008 at the world-renowned John Hopkins University, where 30 scholars from 10 different countries discussed the history of the Scout Movement. The proceedings of the symposium are published in the book "Scouting Frontiers: Youth and the Scout Movement's First Century" published by Cambridge Scholars Publishing.
When Bill was 10 (still in Denmark), his brother Harald, 11 years older and a bookseller, sent him a Christmas present that was to change his life, as well as the lives of countless other boys. Baden-Powell’s Scouting for Boys was a success throughout Europe at that time and had been translated into Danish. Bill read it and learned that Scouts did the kinds of things he wanted to do on his woodland treks. He learned that one became a Scout by joining a patrol or by forming one among his friends. This Bill did immediately.
Bill was awarded the Bronze Wolf, the highest award of World Scouting and also received the highest Scouting recognition of a dozen countries. On November 9, 1992, while on the last leg of a world Scouting tour, Bill passed away in Sweden, a day away from visiting his native Denmark. Bill’s legacy and contributions continue to serve the Scout Movement through his Trust and through the several books he wrote.
Acknowledgements: Nelson R. Block (United States of America)