Nelson started Scouting in Goodman’s old Troop 1 in Philadelphia. He was inducted into the Unami Lodge at Treasure Island in 1919. Nelson was in attendance at the 1921 First Meeting of the Grand Lodge. He served on the camp staff at Treasure Island Scout Reservation and served as the 1925 Lodge Chief of Unami Lodge. On September 17, 1925 H. Lloyd Nelson kept the 45th Vigil in the Order at Treasure Island during the Fifth Grand Lodge Meeting.
Nelson remained active in Scouting and the Order while attending the University of Pennsylvania and in 1933 was elected Grand Lodge Scribe. What was distinctive about Nelson from all other previous Grand Lodge officers was he was not a professional Scouter. Other Grand Lodge officers had been Scout Executives and Field Executives working in the Order in a volunteer capacity. This distinction gave insight to Nelson that other officers lacked. That insight and connection with non-Professional Arrowmen equipped Nelson well when as a national officer Thomas Cairns included him on the Transition Committee.
The Transition Committee became the National Executive Committee, which became the National OA Committee. Nelson served from 1933 until 1955 on these committees. The first nine years was as the Grand Lodge Scribe (which during Nelson’s tenure was also called the National Tribe Scribe, the National Lodge Scribe and finally the National Lodge Secretary.) In 1942 Nelson was selected as the National Chief, which in 1942 was the equivalent to today’s National OA Committee Chairman. Nelson served as Chief until 1946 and then continued on the National Executive Committee as Past Chief. From these leadership positions Nelson was instrumental in directing the Order of the Arrow in achieving it’s most significant goal of its first half century, full integration into the BSA in 1948.
In 1949 Nelson became the second National OA Committee Chairman and he served until his untimely death at the end of 1955. All of the Order mourned his death. In a special and unique tribute, a memorial was held in H. Lloyd Nelson’s honor at the 1956 NOAC in Bloomington Indiana. During the memorial instead of the traditional flowers, lodges placed their empty chief’s headdresses and bonnets on the stage.