In the 15 years following the organization of the Boy Scouts of America in 1910, the growth of the movement was slowed only by the need for qualified leaders. There was no program developed to hold the interests of the older Scouts in their troops. Many youths attaining Scouting's highest honor lost interest and dropped from active participation.
On the night of April 19, 1925, ten Eagle Scouts met in the office of Scout Executive Raymond O. Hanson of the San Francisco Council to organize an association that would hold the interests of Eagle Scouts, uphold the dignity of the Eagle Award, and provide a base for continuing leadership in the Scouting movement. That night it was decided to organize an association of Eagle Scouts devoted to service—the Knights of Dunamis.
The name for the new association was selected carefully to reflect its dedication to service. The word "Dunamis" (pronounced DOO'-NA-MIS) is derived from the Greek word meaning "power" or "spirit" and denotes the increased power that is an Eagle Scout's, by virtue of his membership, to use for the good of the Scouting movement and his community.
Dunamis was formed to promote Eagle Scouting. The founders felt that young men seeking a meaningful purpose in life fulfilled many of the same requirements as the Knights of Old. Thus, knighthood and the greatest knight of all, Sir Galahad, became the foundation of Dunamis. The Knight's Code, which stressed honor to his country, the preparation to defend it from any enemy, and the commitment of service to his fellow man, was the obligation of a knight.
The Knights of Dunamis emblem consisted of an Eagle perched on a sword that rested on the shield of Dunamis. The eagle was symbolic of every member's achievement of the Eagle Scout rank. The sword was a replica of the sword of Sir Galahad, from which, legend said, Galahad derived his power leadership. The triangular shield of Dunamis signified the three parts of the Scout Oath—duty to God and country, duty to others, and duty to self.
Based upon this foundation, the early achievements of the Knights of Dunamis in San Francisco were impressive, with a high percentage of the members continuing their interests in the Scouting program.
The success of this service program did not go unnoticed in other councils. Within a year a second group was organized in the adjoining San Mateo County Council, and shortly thereafter a third was formed in the Atlantic City Council.
On December 14, 1929, delegates from six chapters met in San Francisco to organize a national board. This national organization supplemented the local chapters by providing supplies and holding national conferences to facilitate the exchange of views.
In 1971 there were 37 chapters of the Knights of Dunamis. The strongest chapters were located in San Francisco and Washington, D.C. The older members saw great mystery in the name and ritual of the Knights of Dunamis, and the strength of leadership was in the hands of the few who were caught up in the ceremonies and degrees of knighthood. Youth members found some conflict between their obligation to their own Scout unit and the time spent in Knights of Dunamis ritual and activities. There was a need to keep in contact with Eagle Scouts and to develop a manpower resource of Eagle Scouts for Scouting. To accomplish this, the support of the National Council was needed.
At its annual meeting at Fort Collins, Colo., in August 1970, the National Chapter of the Knights of Dunamis Inc., empowered its officers to take action to dissolve the corporation and consummate a merger with the Boy Scouts of America.
Robert Ballou, who grew up in Knights of Dunamis, was selected as national secretary when the BSA agreed to subsidize the Knights of Dunamis for 18 months. In 1971, James J. Harris was assigned as national secretary.
In May 1971, a meeting was held in Atlanta to discuss the future of the Eagle program and a steering committee was formed, comprising two national Executive Board members, J. Kimball Whitney and Donald H. Flanders; the president and first vice president of Knights of Dunamis, Dr. Lester Steig and Dr. James Cochran; Ebert May; James Harris; J. H. Biggers; Ken Wells; and three Knights of Dunamis youth members. Using the research study presented by the Research and Development Division under the direction of Wells, plans were formulated for the organization of the National Eagle Scout Association.
A National Eagle Scout Association committee was formed in August 1971, with Whitney and Flanders representing the National BSA Board, James Cochran as national adviser, and John Russell and Robert Salisbury as associate national advisers. It was at this time that Dr. Steig officially stepped down as national president of the Knights of Dunamis and became a member of the NESA committee.
The National Eagle Scout Association was launched with the first NESA committee meeting held in conjunction with the National Council meeting in Los Angeles on May 19, 1972.
Donald H. Flanders of Fort Smith, Arkansas, served as NESA's first national chairman. In 1973, NESA launched a vigorous membership drive at the National Order of the Arrow Conference and the national Scout jamboree.
The NESA Scoutmaster Award was introduced in 1973 to recognize noteworthy promotion of, and leadership to, the Scouting advancement program in general and exemplary development of Eagles in particular.
In August 1974, the first NESA national conference was held in Fort Collins, Colo. The theme of the conference was NESA—Growing Upward, Outward, and Inward. Those attending the conference were read a letter from U.S. President Gerald Ford, the first Eagle Scout to become president.
In 1974, Thomas F. Gilbane became NESA chairman. He gave strong leadership to the national committee until May 1976, when Dr. Max S. Norris of Indianapolis was appointed chairman. Dr. Norris remained in office for five years.
NESA kicked off the Bicentennial Eagle Scout Roundup program in 1975. NESA also sent a service corps to the world Scout jamboree in Norway.
In 1976, NESA held its second national conference in Washington, D.C., and helped the nation celebrate its 200th birthday. At the 1977 National Scout Jamboree, NESA sponsored a Life to Eagle meeting to encourage Scouts to complete their trail to Scouting's highest achievement.
The third national conference was held in 1978 at Opryland in Nashville, Tennessee. 1978 also saw NESA institute its life membership. The first NESA life member was Zenon C. R. Hansen.
At the 1981 National Scout Jamboree, NESA again held a Life to Eagle meeting to encourage the Scouts. NESA also held a membership meeting at the jamboree where Richard W. Kiefer of Baltimore was introduced as the new national ch
airman, and all NESA members enjoyed a time of fellowship and ice cream eating. NESA also staffed a display on the jamboree midway.
In 1982, NESA celebrated its 10th birthday with a national conference held with the National Annual Meeting in Atlanta, Georgia.
The purpose of NESA has remained the same: to identify Eagle Scouts and to provide a manpower resource for local councils. The primary objective of local chapters is to guide Eagle Scouts of all ages into service within the local council. All BSA councils have membership enrolled in the National Eagle Scout Association.
NESA is young men searching for dynamic and challenging leadership roles. NESA is older Eagle Scouts who desire using their efforts and influence toward forming the kind of young men America needs for leadership. The objective of NESA is to serve—to serve Eagle Scouts and through them, the entire movement of Scouting.