Otis Holden Chidester was born March 22, 1903 in Mineral City, Ohio and spent his early years in Susquehanna, PA. Otis became a Boy Scout on September 8, 1912 and after 84½ years was the nation's senior Scout in continuously registered and active service. He became an Eagle Scout in 1935, received the Silver Beaver Award in 1948, and was named a Distinguished Eagle Scout in 1993. He served Catalina Council as its Historian for 34 years and was the national dean of Scout Council Historians. At the time of his death, he was nearing completion of the revised edition of his monograph on the history of Scouting in Southern Arizona.
Otis made many contributions to Scouting over the years he was in the program. He was involved in the Printing Merit Badge creation and adaptation over the years. From the very first National Jamboree in 1935 he was instrumental in showing Scouts how to produce the Jamboree newspapers that still are a popular part of these events. Otis worked with the National Supply Division in 1934 and 1935 to develop a replacement for the bulky horseshoe shaped blanket rolls that Scouts were using. The result was a zippered bag that was at first called the Arizona Bag, and later the sleeping bag.
In 1984 he established the Scout Museum of Southern Arizona, which members later changed to the Otis H. Chidester Scout Museum of Southern Arizona over his objections. Otis considered the Museum to be his principal legacy to his fellow citizens and to Scouts of all ages. Otis and his wife came to Tucson in January 1934. He taught at the Arizona State School for the Deaf and Blind from 1937 to 1940.
He earned his B.A. and M.A. degrees from the University of Arizona in 1940 and 1948. He founded the graphic arts department at Tucson High School in 1940 and served as department chairman until 1968. He was inducted into the Tucson High School Hall of Fame in 1992. Otis became a Master Mason in Windsor, N.Y. Lodge No. 442 on April 3, 1925 and had been a member of Epes Randolph Lodge No. 32 in Tucson since March 7, 1941. He was named Mason of the Year by his lodge in 1993.
Otis was an active and devoted member of Catalina United Methodist Church since 1934 and received its John Leecing Missioner's Award in 1987. He was the senior member of the Tucson Corral of Westerners, having served as its Sheriff in 1961 and having edited its research publication The Smoke Signal from 1960 to 1989. He had been International Secretary Emeritus of Westerners International since 1977.
Otis served as President of the Arizona Archaeological and Historical Society from 1952 to 1954 and received its Victor R. Stoner Award in 1987. He received the Al Merito Award from the Arizona Historical Society in 1975. He served as International President of the International Graphic Arts Education Association in 1955-6 and received its Fred J. Hartman Award in 1975. He was the founding Chairman of Pima Community College's Graphic Technology Citizens' Advisory Committee in 1968 and served as chairman for 10 years.
In 1994 the Baha'is of Greater Tucson named him the inaugural recipient of the William Sears Vision in Action Award.
Throughout his long life, this noble soul exerted a positive and loving influence on countless thousands of young men and women, and the world is a far better place because of his passage through it. Otis died on February 22nd, 1997. The memorial service was held March 5th, and the interment was on March 22nd. Otis happened to die on the birthday of two men he greatly admired, George Washington and Lord Baden Powell. The Museum and Scouting were greatly saddened, but celebrate a life that was of tremendous service.
James Klein M.D., President