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Photo by Eric Underwood.
Scout Troop 93 Bob's boys 1
Current Troop 93 scoutmaster Terry Beckham poses with some of the younger troop members on a recent campout.
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Photo courtesy of Boy Scout Troop 93.
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Bob Calhoun in 1971 with two of the first Eagle Scouts in Troop 93. From left, Dennis Wildsmith, Bob Calhoun and Dave Marks.
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Photo by Eric Underwood.
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Members of Troop 93 pose on a recent camping trip to Lake Martin.
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Image courtesy of Boy Scout Troop 93.
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The proposed design of the Robert F. Calhoun Scout Center.
Being one of Bob’s boys was all it took for strangers to become immediately connected.
It was how Anne Calhoun introduced former Boy Scouts at the funeral of her husband, Bob Calhoun. Shortly after the service, Troop 93 began printing T-shirts with the words “Bob’s Boys” emblazoned on the sleeve.
“It was a badge of honor that we wanted to carry on,” said Eric Underwood, current assistant scoutmaster for Troop 93.
Bob Calhoun founded Troop 93 at Oakmont Presbyterian Church in 1965. Calhoun was a lifelong member of the scouting community, serving as Troop 93’s scoutmaster through retirement and committee chairman until his death at age 78.
Today, the troop is still going strong. With the fifth anniversary of Calhoun’s death approaching, the scouts are fundraising to build a new scout center in his honor.
David Clanton, current troop committee chairman, is the fundraising chairman for the new scout center. Clanton, a Birmingham-based dentist, was an early member of Troop 93 and one of the first to reach the coveted rank of Eagle Scout in the troop. As part of his Eagle service project back in 1971 he, along with other troop members Dennis Wildsmith and David Marks, renovated an old house on Oakmont property to serve as the first scout center for the troop.
By the mid-1990s that house, which had seen a lot of use over the years, had to be cleared from the property. Troop 93 has been meeting in a basement classroom underneath the sanctuary ever since. The new building will serve as a meeting and storage space for the troop, and it will be built on church-donated land behind Oakmont.
“We’re trying to raise $150,000,” Clanton said. “When we get to $50,000, we’ll get started on clearing the land and building the center.”
The design for the new scout center came courtesy of a team of Auburn University architecture students. Calhoun was a graduate of The University of Alabama and an avid Crimson Tide fan; any boys in his troop who happened to be Auburn fans were always subject to some good-natured ribbing.
Clanton, an Auburn graduate, chuckled when asked what Calhoun might think about a bunch of Auburn students designing the building that will be named after him.
“Yeah, he liked to tease. But, you know, some of his best friends were Auburn fans,” Clanton said.
Ralph Upchurch, another Eagle Scout in Troop 93 who eventually became the troop’s scoutmaster, originally proposed the idea to build a new scout center.
“I presented the idea at a troop committee meeting one night and it just took off,” Upchurch said.
Like so many young men who passed through the ranks of Troop 93 under Calhoun’s watch over the decades, Upchurch was greatly affected by the man. When it came time for his son to join the Boy Scouts, he didn’t pressure him to join Troop 93 but hoped he would.
“All his buddies were going to another troop, so I couldn’t blame him if he wanted to go there, too,” Upchurch said. “But Bob invited him on one of the Camporees. When he got back from that weekend that was it. He wasn’t going anywhere else.”
Upchurch’s son went on to earn the rank of Eagle in the same troop his father had.
Though Calhoun was in retirement during this time, he was still active in the troop, attending weekly meetings, monthly campouts and assisting with community service projects.
“I’m so glad my son had time with Bob,” Upchurch said.
This father-son legacy with Troop 93 isn’t unique to Upchurch. Underwood became an Eagle Scout under Calhoun’s tutelage in 1980 and saw his son reach Eagle in the same troop in 2009.
“Mr. Calhoun gave my son a troop T-shirt when he was 2 years old,” Underwood remembered. “He recruited them early.”
Sons of two other Calhoun-era Eagle alums — Jim Ritchie and Doug Adair — also became Eagle Scouts in the troop. “I think it’s neat,” Underwood said. “All of our sons knew Mr. Calhoun, and had the same respect for him that we did.”
Calhoun stayed in touch with as many of his former scouts as he could long after they left the troop, always eager to cheer on their life accomplishments and provide moral and emotional support during stressful times. He often had to implore them to address him properly as an adult, instead of calling him “Mr. Calhoun” or “Mr. C” like they had before.
“You’re a man now,” he would say. “Call me Bob.”
After Calhoun died, family and friends knew that Oakmont’s sanctuary couldn’t hold the number of people who would come to mourn the loss and celebrate the life of the beloved man who had such a positive impact on the lives of so many young men in the community. Green Valley Baptist Church, Oakmont’s next-door neighbor, swung open the doors to its larger sanctuary for the memorial service held on March 28, 2009.
Mourners came from the local community and around the country to pay their respects. The service also served as a reunion of sorts, as men who had last seen each other as young teenage boys reconnected in remembrance as fully grown adults. Many of the assorted relatives, friends, newer troop members and former coworkers from Calhoun’s long career with State Farm Insurance did not know each other.
Portions of Bob Calhoun’s ashes were spread at different locales around the country, each a place close to his heart. A team of scouts spread some at the Tooth of Time, a prominent mountain peak at Philmont Scout Ranch in the Sangre de Cristo Mountains of northern New Mexico.
A group of Troop 93 alumni — Bob’s Boys — had a portion on hand when they visited Billy’s Island during a reunion trip to the Okefenokee Swamp. At the memorial service it was rumored that some remains would be spread on the field at Bryant-Denny Stadium in Tuscaloosa.
In autumn 2009, Calhoun’s only child, his daughter, Suzanne, who grew up accompanying the boys of Troop 93 on many outings, rode on horseback high up into the Smoky Mountains along the Tennessee/North Carolina border to Spence Field, a grassy knoll cut through by the Appalachian Trail. It was one of her father’s favorite spots and the place where most of his ashes were cast.