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From left, U.S. District Judge Brian Davis receives the Distinguished Eagle Scout Award from Bill McCamy, chair of the North Florida Council Boy Scouts of America Eagle Scout Association Committee and 11th Circuit Court of Appeals Judge Gerald Tjoflat.
Jax Daily Record Tuesday, Mar. 15, 201612:00 PM EST

Surprise honor for U.S. District Judge Brian Davis, who receives Distinguished Eagle Scout Award

by: Max Marbut Associate Editor

It’s not easy to surprise a member of the federal judiciary, but that’s what happened Monday when U.S. District Judge Brian Davis was honored with the Distinguished Eagle Scout Award.

At a luncheon hosted by the Rotary Club of Jacksonville, Davis was joined by 47 of the 251 members of the North Florida Council Boy Scouts of America Eagle Scout Class of 2015.

Davis thought he was invited to extoll the virtues of Scouting and what it meant to him to be an Eagle Scout. But he was called to the podium to accept the honor.

“This is truly a surprise,” Davis said.

The award was first bestowed in 1969 and since then, 2,100 Eagle Scouts have been recognized for applying what they learned as a Scout in their adult lives, said 11th Circuit Court of Appeals Judge Gerald Tjoflat.

Previous recipients include astronauts, generals, admirals, members of Congress, governors and leaders in business and education.

Davis is only the fifth federal judge to receive the award, said Tjoflat.

Davis recalled his interview before the Judicial Nominating Commission that led to his appointment to the federal bench in 2013.

He said when he walked into the room, he appeared calm on the outside, but was anything but calm on the inside as he faced the 20-member committee.

When the first question was to explain why he thought he was qualified to serve as a federal judge, Davis replied by reciting the principles of the Boy Scout Law.

“I said. ‘I am trustworthy, loyal, helpful, etc.,’” Davis said. “It made them laugh, but it allowed me to take a breath and the rest is history.”

North Florida Council Scout Executive Jack Sears said one of Davis’ most important contributions to the community and Scouting is his involvement with the local Urban Scouting program. The group serves young men in some of the city’s most challenged neighborhoods, including the Eureka Garden and Cleveland Arms apartments.

“It allows young men without the necessary financial resources or parental support to participate in Scouting,” Sears said.

Urban Scouting began in Jacksonville when Davis was an assistant state attorney in the 4th Judicial Circuit. After one of the late Realtor Dan Jones’ children was assaulted, “rather than seeking revenge, he came to the State Attorney’s Office looking for ideas to reach into the underserved communities,” Davis said.

The program has grown over the years, supported by a $3 million endowment that began with a $1 million gift from Robert and Monica Jacoby plus $2 million in donations from other philanthropists.

“We average about 600 young men in the program each year. They get the full Boy Scout experience,” said Sears.

Tjoflat said Davis has used what he learned as an Eagle Scout in his career as an attorney and judge.

He cited contributions Davis has made to local social service organizations and serving on local and state committees that studied children’s legal issues and domestic violence. Davis also was instrumental in establishing a mental health court in Nassau County.

Davis offered a statistical analysis of young men who are Scouts.

He said of 100 boys who join the organization, about 30 will drop out for one reason or another.

Among those who dedicate themselves to Scouting, less than 1 percent will appear before a juvenile court judge, 12 percent will have no exposure to religion other than what they receive through Scouting and about 50 percent will serve in the military.

“At least one will have the privilege of saving another’s life,” Davis said.

Eagle Scouts represent 16 percent of the appointees to the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, 12 percent of appointees to the Air Force Academy and 11 percent to the Naval Academy.

“Eagle Scouts become leaders in life,” said Davis.

He also thanked the people who helped the new class of Eagles earn the Boy Scouts of America’s highest rank.

“These young men would not be here today were it not for a parent or a family member that helped them succeed,” he said. “They are an elite group of achievers.”

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