J. Rucker Newbery is best known as the editor of the first Order of the Arrow Handbook in 1948. Newbery officially joined the OA on June 11, 1936 when he chartered the Bob White Lodge, Augusta Georgia into the Order while serving as their Scout Executive. Newbery remained a member of the Order until his death in 1978.
Early in 1942 Frank Dix of the National Executive Committee tendered his resignation. Dix had been selected to the National Executive Committee as the Southern representative. When he was re-assigned by the national office as a Deputy Regional Executive to Cincinnati, he could no longer serve. It was a national BSA policy requiring balance on the lead OA committee that a Southern representative was required on the committee. Dix suggested J. Rucker Newbery as his replacement and in 1942 Newbery was appointed to the National Executive Committee.
In 1943 Newbery transferred to Charleston, South Carolina and became Scout Executive of Coastal Carolina Council. He immediately chartered Unali’yi Lodge. In 1946 Newbery was elected National Lodge Treasurer at the National Meeting at Chanute Field. Newbery also kept his Vigil at the 1946 Meeting and was given a Vigil name meaning “The Willing One”.
In 1948 J. Rucker Newbery edited the first Order of the Arrow Handbook. The book was an immediate success and was a requisite requirement for the OA becoming fully integrated into the BSA. Newbery was also an early patch collector. The OA Handbook was the first time groups of patches were photographed for members. This contributed to the growth of patch trading. Newbery was honored for his leadership and service with the OA Distinguished Service Award in 1948, a time when there had been fewer than 25 recipients.