Scout Soars Far Beyond Eagle

James Calderwood has so many merit badges that he had to sew together three sashes to display them all. The bugling badge was hardest, he says.
James Calderwood has so many merit badges that he had to sew together three sashes to display them all. The bugling badge was hardest, he says. (By Michael Williamson -- The Washington Post)

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By Paul Duggan
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, April 3, 2007

It's not easy making Eagle, the highest honor in Boy Scouts. You need at least 21 merit badges, some required. Only 2 percent of Scouts get that far. A remarkable achievement. So what adjective should be used for James Calderwood, who has attained 121? Scout's honor.

The Chevy Chase teen has every badge available, from American business to woodwork. He even has one they don't give out anymore, so make it 122.

So many that he couldn't wear them the normal way. "I actually had to make my own sash, where I took three sashes and sewed them together," he said.

The Boy Scouts of America doesn't keep records of Scouts who have earned every badge. But not many have done it, said Deborah Dean, program director for the Scouts' National Capital Area Council. Dean confirmed Calderwood's achievement, calling it "extremely rare."

Calderwood, the most decorated Scout in memory in the council, reached the 21-badge mark for Eagle in 2002 and left it in the dust.

"Bugling was probably one of the most difficult," Calderwood, a high school senior, said from his home in Chevy Chase last night. "I've never been very musically gifted. And I was on five different continents over the summer, so I didn't have much time to practice. . . . I brought my mouthpiece with me. I brought it to the top of Mount Kilimanjaro and everyplace else I was, and I tried to practice."

Everyplace else he was over the summer (besides the top of a mountain in Tanzania): in Japan, with exchange students; in Costa Rica, working with an ecological program; and in northern Kenya, helping open a medical clinic.

"Then when I got back to the United States," he said, "I met with a music teacher two to three times a week and just kept practicing and practicing."

And finally, in January, he passed his bugle test, two days before his 18th birthday, which is the age cutoff for getting merit badges -- and that was it, the final badge, No. 122.

Calderwood, who will soon graduate from Georgetown Preparatory School, is the only child of Jim Calderwood, an antitrust lawyer, and Joyce Johnson, a retired Coast Guard admiral who is vice president of a health-care concern. He joined the Boy Scouts in sixth grade. Most of his free time since has been devoted to one thing.

"I never planned on getting them all," he said. "First, I just sort of concentrated on the ones that went with my hobbies. And then I just thought I should keep going."

Here's how he did it.


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