Iron Eyes Cody

Iron Eyes Cody. (Photo courtesy Verdugo Hills Council, Boy Scouts of America) (December 13, 2012)

Iron Eyes Cody, who became famous as the “Crying Indian” in a 1971 “Keep America Beautiful” commercial, was active in Glendale's Boy Scout program for many years.

Cody became involved in Scouting activities when his son joined the Scouts. He taught the boys Indian crafts in his ‘Moosehead Museum,' which he had assembled in his Atwater home, according to a 1951 Glendale News-Press article.

Because of his work with the Scouts, he was named to the Order of the Arrow, a national award given to Scouts who best exemplify the scout oath and law in their daily lives. Cody often attended Order of the Arrow events sponsored by the Verdugo Hills Council.

Larry Widdis, a longtime member of the council, was elected to the Order of the Arrow in 1962, when he was 12 and a student at Wilson Junior High. Widdis attended many Order of the Arrow events for about four years and told me that Iron Eyes Cody was very active in the group.

“Cody often came to these events; they were held up at Camp Bill Lane. Iron Eyes Cody was always friendly,” Widdis recalled. “He always talked to everyone. He was a regular in cowboy and western movies and he looked the part; it was kind of exciting to see a movie actor in the flesh who was kind and who spoke to us.''

Widdis stopped attending Order of the Arrow events shortly after entering Glendale High because of school activities, but remained active in his troop, Troop 10. “It was led by Walter Spray and sponsored by the old Glendale Lions Club,” he added.

Some years ago, the Verdugo Hills Council renamed one of its two districts in honor of Cody. In the News-Press, Feb. 4, 1995, Senior District Executive Terry Richardson noted that Cody had been involved with the council for many years. “He taught ceremonial singing and dancing to members of the Order of the Arrow.” When the council was divided into two districts early in the 1990s, Richardson said, one of the districts was named after Cody. “The council thought it would be a tribute to a great man.”

Keith Sorem, present chair of the Iron Eyes Cody District, said his district is home to 50 units, including Cub Scouts, Boy Scouts, Varsity teams, Sea Scout Ships and Venture Crews. Together they serve more than 2,000 youths. “Our service area includes the city of Burbank, the southeast portion of Glendale, plus wards of the Church of Latter-Day Saints that include the same areas plus stakes in North Hollywood and Studio City.''

In 1995, when Iron Eyes Cody turned 91, Burbank's Cub Scout Pack 201, from the district bearing his name, marched in a parade to celebrate his birthday. The Cub Scouts also threw a party for him at council headquarters on Grandview Avenue and brought along a framed collage of Cody, which he autographed. The collage still hangs there, honoring the memory of Iron Eyes Cody.