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American Legion, RICHMOND POST NO. 1 — 1924

Richmond, Virginia

American Legion, 1924

On April, 16, 1919, the initial steps toward the formation of the first American Legion Post in Virginia were taken at a meeting called by Dr. Stuart McGuire in the John Marshall High School, Richmond, Va.

A temporary organization, known as Richmond Branch No. 1, was formed, with Andrew D. Christian, chairman. On June 18, 1919, the first regular election of officers was held. President, Branch Johnson; vice-president, Henry R. Miller, Jr.; secretary, Morton Wallerstein; treasurer, R. Allen Ammons.

During the year much earnest effort was expended in conjunction with a committee from the State legislature over proposed plans for a fitting memorial to Virginia’s dead. Appropriation was made for a State-wide memorial library which was rescinded by the following legislature. The Woman’s Auxiliary, since so active and efficient in Legion affairs, was formed; the city was districted in choosing executive committeemen, thus filling a need later met by the establishment of additional posts; and a fund for relief work instituted–the forerunner of Poppy Day, from which funds numerous cases of distress among needy veterans are alleviated.

With John A. Cutchins as Post commander and Walter A. Williams, Jr., adjutant, Post No. 1 began its second lap in 1920.

Meetings were held at various places and already the acute need for a permanent home was being felt. The Post was beginning to find itself through a process of elimination of ideas in a series of marathon debates which often carried far into the night. General Pershing honored with his presence the indoor circus staged as a benefit for disabled veterans; meetings were made more attractive, with many entertainment features; a time limit placed on oratory, and efforts were concentrated on giving the Legion a definite objective in meeting its obligation of service.

At the first January meeting of 1921, Calvin Satterfield, Jr., and Buford Scott were elected commander and adjutant, respectively.

During the year the first Legion play, “Squads East,” prepared and presented by members of the Post, proved a big success. Poppy Day was instituted and was a success from the start-about a thousand dollars being secured the first year for relief work. Armistice Day was featured by a large parade, and on November 23rd, with Marshal Foch as the city’s and Legion’s guest of honor, an immense parade and other notable features fittingly placed it as one of the capital’s red letter days.

On January 3, 1922, Clarke Roper became commander and Harold W. Faint adjutant. The meeting place was changed to Murphy’s Hotel through the courtesy of the management. The play, “Aye, Aye, Sir,” contributed substantially in cutting down the Post indebtedness. Visiting National Commander Hanford MacNider, Governor Trinkle, Mayor Ainslie and other distinguished guests honored with their presence the banquet staged at the Blue’s Armory, afterwards attending the show. Members of the Legion formed the episode of the Knights of the Golden Horseshoe in the Virginia Historical Pageant. Weekly luncheons were inaugurated, which further fostered the spirit of good comradeship, interesting meetings were held, embracing some entertaining feature, and a successful membership drive instituted. Armistice Day was fittingly observed by a well-staged parade, an afternoon at the V. M. I.-U. N. C. football game and a stag banquet at night. One of the outstanding features of the year’s activities was the great amount of relief work, largely accomplished through the personal efforts of the commander.

1923 began with James R. Sheppard, commander; Fergus McRee, vice-commander, afterwards commander following the resignation of Commander Sheppard upon his election to the Virginia House of Delegates, and John G. Stovall, adjutant.

Outstanding features of the year’s work embraced the acquisition and dedication of Legion Square in Riverview Cemetery as a resting place for World War Veterans who die in destitute circumstances; the annual show, the “Frolics of ’23,” a tremendous success in every way; numerous entertainment features; inauguration of Legion excursion to Buckroe Beach; the visit of National Commander Alvin M. Owsley; plans for a memorial to Richmond’s dead, to be entered into by the four posts and subscribed to entirely by service men; participation in the presentation of the French flag by France to Richmond; Armistice Day, consisting of the parade, ball game, supper and ball; the Monroe Centennial; the Bazaar, and other social features upon the opening of the home.

The acquirement of the Post Home, 2315 West Grace Street, stands forth as the most conspicuous achievement of the year. This handsome piece of property, on a sixty-foot lot, consists of fifteen rooms with inlaid hardwood floors, excepting two or three, beautiful tapestried and papered walls, chandeliers, fixtures, gas range, hot water heaters, gas stove, gas heaters for many of the rooms, electric refrigerator, furnace and numerous other accessories, was obtained for the remarkably low figure of $14,000. Donations of furniture, phonograph, piano, pictures, books, bric-a-brac and fixtures, together with the purchase of room suites, pool table, tables and improvements inside and out, have made it in truth a home to be proud of as time has amply shown. A heavy increase in membership, numerous informal occasions at the home, an increasing daily use of the home as a club by many of the members, all argue the wisdom of the purchase.

The present year, 1924, has as its post officers: Mills Neal, commander; Dr. E. C. Levy, first vice-commander; E. P. Baughan, second vice-commander; Richard E. Bidgood, adjutant; John Keegan, service officer; Robert B. Gayle, finance officer; G. W. J. Blume, historian; Dr. W. D. Smith, chaplain; Warren G. Lambert, sergeant-at-arms. The executive committee is composed of Fergus McRae (chairman), John G. Stovall, Norman Cole, Henry Miller, Waverley King and Dr. J. B. Bullard.

Participation in memorial exercises to Woodrow Wilson on February 6th; a succession of distinguished speakers at the mid-week luncheons: a weekly program at the home; the “Frolics of ’24 ;” Poppy Day; Memorial Day parade, and the annual Buckroe excursion, with other entertaining features planned for the near future, indicate 1924 will go clown as the most successful year Post No. 1 has yet enjoyed.

Although losing many of its best workers through the formation of the other three posts of the city, Post No. 1 is yet able to carry on with even greater aims and brighter prospects than at any time in the past. Among things accomplished and to be accomplished, there is as first asset an enthusiastic spirit, quickened for work along all lines of Legion activity; the acquirement of a home; the assurance of the memorial to Richmond’s dead, inaugurated by this Post, the memorial, with trees and individual markers leading off from the central figure all to be completed and dedicated Armistice Day; an active interest and participation in community affairs and recreational work; an harmonious spirit of comradeship, stronger than ever before; practically a doubling of membership; increased capacity for relief work-all of which argue that Richmond Post No. 1 is beginning to strike its stride in earnest effort toward the Legion motto–Service.