Scout Honor Societies

"Lone Bear"

H. Roe Bartle

H. Roe BartleUsing the word "legend" may be an understatement when talking about Harold Roe Bennett Sturdevant Bartle. There has probably never been a professional Scouter on the local or national scene quite like him. A big man with a big voice who was bigger than life, he was born in Virginia on June 25, 1901. Known simply as "The Chief", the massive Kansas City Convention Center is named in his honor not to mention the Kansas City Chiefs NFL football team. He was a professional Scouter extraordinaire and during his lifetime also managed to be a lawyer, banker, cattleman, politician, college president and renowned public speaker.

His father was a Presbyterian minister and he was an only child weighing nearly eleven pounds when he was born. He enlisted in the Army when he was 13 years old but his father, armed with a birth certificate, pulled him out three days later. He was a big man standing 6' 4" and weighing in at 375 pounds. They say his voice was even bigger. He overcame an early shyness and became a professional public speaker who was in great demand and was highly compensated for his efforts. He gave hundreds of speeches every year. One Kansas City Scouter I communicated with told me that legend has it when the Chief wanted to contact someone in a nearby town he would walk out to a high point five miles from it and yell. They would hear him. The Scouter, who knew him, always wanted to ask if it were really true but never had the courage. When Chief Bartle spoke he didn't need a public address system. There was a number of times where he actually blew out the public address system he happened to be using. He said "God had wired me for sound" so he spoke without one. He was dynamic to the core with his rich and high powered voice and eloquence of language. He was one of the most sought after speakers in the country yet when he was a 15 year old cadet at the Fork Union Military Academy in Virginia he hid under a bed once to avoid a debating class.

He was Kansas City's most celebrated mayor, having served two terms starting in 1955. It was "Chief" Bartle who negotiated with Lamar Hunt to bring his NFL team to Kansas City from Dallas in 1963. Mr. Hunt renamed the team "The Chiefs" in honor of Bartle, which is documented in NFL history. He had a fireman's hat, coat and boots and went to all two alarm fires while he was mayor to support the firemen and assist the victims. Every morning he had a radio broadcast at 8am to give a daily report on the city. He did not wish to serve a third term and although on the ticket, asked voters not to vote for him. Some did anyway but he got his wish and was not reelected.

H. Roe Bartle is considered the founder of American Humanics. He had worked for ten years on developing the program. For nearly thirty years the Chief led the Kansas City Area (now the Heart of America) Council of Boy Scouts. As Council Executive, he was responsible for hiring qualified staff members. He had no trouble finding good people, but most knew nothing about running an organization. With the help of longtime civic leader Jerry Cohen and others, Chief Bartle founded the American Humanics Foundation in Kansas City in 1948. His idea was to teach college undergraduates how to run the business side of nonprofit organizations. Courses would be conducted on campus and experienced agency executives would present classroom lectures and workshops. Students would volunteer in community agencies and learn from on-the-job experience. Upon graduation, they would have the management skills to run nonprofit agencies. Fifty years ago, most college campuses were not interested in adding American Humanics courses to their curriculums. American Humanics started at Missouri Valley College and grew within a small number of colleges. That situation has changed in recent years. The program may be the least known part of the legacy of H. Roe Bartle yet may be the most far-reaching, with hundreds of alumni serving various nonprofit organizations across the land. He considered it his greatest contribution to America during his lifetime. Chief Bartle had originally started it to help the Boy Scouts but it carried over to benefit many organizations. At a major American Humanics dinner in 1964, twelve speakers described the profound influences Mr. Bartle had on youth serving organizations across America. They say it was the only time that H. Roe Bartle was speechless. American Humanics, Inc. celebrated it's 50th anniversary in 1998. Chief Bartle reportedly used a good amount of his public speaking income to keep it going in the early years.

It was Chief Bartle who was elected the National Chief of the Alpha Phi Omega fraternity in 1931 and remained in that position until 1946. It had eighteen chapters when he took it over and 109 chapters when he stepped down. He is largely credited with the growth of the organization. He followed the founder of the group as the group's leader and was continuously reelected until he finally chose to step down. The handbook of the organization has a full page on him to this day and he is still referred to as "The Chief". A retired professional Scouter who knew him shared with me that it was Chief Bartle who personally financed APO when it was a young organization.

While Chief Bartle accomplished much during his lifetime, Scouting was his passion. He was a professional scouter who knew how to lead and possessed magnetic qualities. He entered professional Scouting at age 21 in 1922 as the Scout Executive for the state of Wyoming. It was at the Wind River Indian Reservation in Wyoming that he spent a great deal of time learning about the values and culture of the American Indian. Bartle was inducted into the Northern Arapaho Tribe as a blood brother and was sponsored into it by a Chief named Lone Bear. Roe Bartle was given the name of his sponsor, "Lone Bear". He arrived in St. Joseph Missouri in 1925 and remained until late December, 1928 when he left and came to Kansas City which became his home for the remainder of his life. He was the Council Executive in Kansas City for 27 years. While he was the executive in St. Joseph he had appointed a Roman Catholic man as a commissioner. After he did a Ku Klux Klan mob came calling one night and demanded that he get rid of the man. His answer to them was "If any three or four of you want to step forward, I'll show you who is running Scouting in St. Joseph." The mob left. The commissioner stayed. Chief Bartle never took a salary while serving as a Council Executive, he donated it back to the council each year to be used to further the cause of Scouting. It is hard to imagine someone working a full-time job for free and doing it over thirty years but he did.

He created the Tribe of Mic-O-Say honor society in St. Joseph, Missouri in 1925 when he became their council executive and created a second Tribe in Kansas City in 1929 after he transferred there. It is believed that Bartle arrived in Missouri in 1925 with the basics of Mic-O-Say in place. There was an existing society in St. Joseph named Manhawka that Bartle incorporated into Mic-O-Say. Kansas City's current Scout reservation is named after Chief Bartle. The two Scout reservations in St. Joseph and Kansas City are said to have the highest retention of older scouts returning each year of any reservations or camps in the country. The Tribe of Mic-O-Say is given much credit for this.

H. Roe Bartle served so many organizations and had so many honors and awards bestowed upon him during his lifetime that it boggles the mind. He received honors and distinguished service medals from Great Britain, Ecuador, Belgium, Chile, Uruguay, Brazil, Venezuela, Peru, Guatemala and Mexico. When Harry Truman asked him to serve as a regional public official in 1951, Chief Bartle reportedly had to resign from 57 boards he was a member of in order to comply with the non-conflict of interest requirement of the job. He was a trustee for hospitals, foundations and helped found such things as the Kansas City Boys Club. He served on boards for religious and osteopathic colleges, corporations, banks, trade commissions and more. After everything I found and read about him, I concluded Chief Bartle was a towering example of what an American citizen should be. He deeply cared about his community, his fellow man and lived a life of extraordinary service to others. Maybe above all he genuinely cared about children. He had instilled in his Scouts for years that when your family, church, community or country called upon you that you fulfilled the call. A group of former Scouts visited him one day to say the city needed honest leadership and asked him to run for mayor. He made no political deals on the way there. His only campaign promise was "I will take my honor, integrity and ability to City Hall and nothing else ." When he was elected he retired from his career in Scouting. This giant of a man had a profound influence on many thousands of people that lasts to this day. He counted among his friends the high and mighty including U.S. President Harry Truman yet took the time to help the common man and his beloved Kansas City in so many ways. The legacy of his life and the wide ranging effects of it are almost immeasurable. In the Christmas movie, "It's A Wonderful Life," the angel Clarence said "Each man's life touches so many other lives...". H. Roe Bartle's life did just that.

The mighty "Lone Bear" passed away on May 9, 1974.

His funeral was attended by the Director of the FBI as well as Chief Scout Executive Alden Barber and others who left a national meeting in Hawaii to be there. The church overflowed with people from all walks of life, all faiths and all color, who came to honor a man who had befriended many. His pallbearers were six firemen and six police officers, public servants, as was he. As the funeral procession moved along the streets to the cemetery, all the citizens who were passed along the way stopped and saluted; men removed their hats and many crossed themselves. From the gates of Forest Hill Cemetery to the gravesite there were literally thousands of saluting Cubs, Scouts and Scouters lined up on both sides to say farewell.

H. Roe Bartle Quotes:

"What America needs is more lovers of children and fewer lovers of things."

"There are three Bartles: The Bartle who makes money, the Bartle who gives it away, and the Bartle who works for free."

"I condemn representatives who represent no one but themselves"

Quotes about H. Roe Bartle:

"This was a man who created an attitude in people to go out and do the very best you could. He stood for all the right things in his day." - (A retired professional scouter who knew him).

A special thank you to Andy Dubill and Frank Hilton for their informational assistance in writing this article. -David L. Eby

Material found on this page is the work of David L. Eby and used USSSP, Inc. by permission. This material may not be reproduced without the express permission of David L. Eby

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