American Legion, GRIFFITH-NEWMAN POST NO. 131 — 1924
By December, 1920, practically all the men who had been in service from Waynesboro and the vicinity had returned home, many had taken up their jobs where they left off when called to the colors, others were in new jobs and still others were regarding with varying degrees of apprehension the approaching time when it was going to be necessary to look for some manner of gainful occupation. All the stories and incidents of camp, transport, billet or trench life had been told and retold till such introductions as “When I was in Paris, etc.,” or “At Brest it rained so hard, etc.,” or “Oui, oui,” or “tout suite” failed to make any impression whatsoever on calloused listeners long inured to such recitals. It was at this low ebb of interest in things military past, present or future that someone suggested that we get together and form a Post of the American Legion. Most of us knew little about the Legion except that as an organization of ex-service men it was rapidly taking an important position in the country, and that posts of it had already been established in some of the nearby towns.
Accordingly, in the latter part of December, 1920, the names of fifteen ex-service men, together with the requisite dues per man, were secured and sent in to the national headquarters of the Legion with a petition for a charter. The name of our organization was to be the Griffith-Newman Post; which name was taken in honor of the memory of two of our fellow-townsmen, who had made the supreme sacrifice in the World War, Maryland Griffith and William Newman, both members of the 116th Infantry, Twenty-ninth Division.
On January 14, 1921, our charter was granted with the following as charter members: James B. Bush, Ernest M. East, Cecil A. Miller, Emmet W. Barger, Charles H. Patterson, Walter C. Arnold, Russell W. Miller, George R. Glenn, Edward H. Shumate, Charles M. Etter, J. Taylor Collins, Samuel H. Hall, D. E. Lamb, George F. Hollar, Charles C. Henderson.
We held our first meeting on February 1st in the county building at Waynesboro. It was largely attended, practically every available space being taken. Colonel W. J. Ferry, of Staunton, the official organizer of the Tenth District of Virginia, gave a short talk, after which officers were elected. James B. Bush was elected Post commander, Cecil A. Miller, vicecommander, and Ernest M. East, adjutant. Before the meeting closed it was addressed by Dr. Griffith, father of Maryland Griffith. At a meeting held three weeks later the staff of officers was increased by the election of Guy Rusmiselle as chaplain, E. W. Barger, war risk officer, and Carl C. Loth, historian.
From that time up to the present the Griffith-Newman Post No. 131 of the American Legion has held a position of prominence and prestige in the community and we hope by continued effort and endeavor to make for it an ever-widening circle of friends and influence. In the year of 1921 we had an enrollment of eighty-one, in 1922, sixty-seven, in 1923 forty-eight, and in the present year our enrollment has reached seventy-five which number will probably be somewhat increased before the year has expired. We have at times numbered our members men from distant communities who were unable to attend meetings but wished to be enrolled as members of the Legion. In spite of the fact that a number of ex-service men have left this section, we have managed by special efforts to keep our enrollment each year satisfactory, but this year by a membership drive have brought it almost up to our initial enrollment.
For the year of 1922, James B. Bush and Ernest East were re-elected as Post commander and adjutant, respectively. In 1923 J. Guy Rusmiselle was at the head of the Post, while Ernest East in spite of his protest had been elected for the third time as adjutant. The present officers are as follows: L. B. Deputy, commander; J. H. Ellis and S. G. White, vicecommanders; R. N. Miller, adjutant; W. D. Shumate, service officer; E. W. Barger, chaplain; R. M. Cabell, historian; C. D. Winters, sergeant-at-arms.
As our national membership of the Legion represents truly a cross section of American life so we have tried to make the activities and work of the Griffith-Newman Post equally representative of the varied interests and activities of our community. Following the general policy of the Legion we have refrained from entering as an organization into politics, yet nevertheless as individuals have tried to throw the weight of our influence and support towards those things which seemed to have as their goal the greatest ultimate good far the community.
Soon after our organization we offered assistance, not only to our own members but to any ex-service men in the matter of converting war risk insurance, expediting compensation claims, gathering information for relatives about men killed or missing in the service, and in short, proffered our aid in all matters relating to the service where we as an organization could be more effective than individuals.
Throughout our four years of existence we have tried to broaden our efforts and activities so as to enter every field of legitimate civic enterprise. We have participated as an organization or as individuals in all Fourth of July or Armistice Day celebrations. On Poppy Day, with the assistance of feminine friends and later of the Auxiliary, we have sold poppies to raise funds to carry an our work. We have subscribed as an organization to the permanent Overseas Grave Fund, given monetary assistance to needy Legionnaires or ex-service men either in our own town or from other sections who found themselves in exceptional circumstances of distress or want. We have contributed money to the assistance of High School athletics, sent boxes at Thanksgiving and Christmas to disabled service men in the Marion Hospital, and treed at all times to give assistance to worthy enterprises.
In our athletics we have been successful with our baseball team, and although through lack of gymnasium facilities last season was the first year we were able to have a basketball team, our quint won by far the majority of its games and made a very creditable showing. The Post has given several minstrel shows for which we have had capacity houses at each performance, and which have aided us materially from a financial standpoint as well as assisted in keeping our organization constantly before the public.
We have been represented at all State conventions of the Legion and at most of the National conventions. On June 11, 1923, a charter was granted for an American Legion Auxiliary in Waynesboro, and this organization we hope will eventually take an active part in Legion and community affairs here as it has already done in a great many places.
At present, our members are devoting considerable time and energy to helping fellow Legionnaires and ex-service men make out their applications for adjusted compensation. The necessary blanks, typewriters and apparatus for fingerprint recording have been placed in our club room, and we are assisting all ex-service men of the community in making out their applications properly and expeditiously. By this and other services which we have given in the past and which we shall continue to offer in the future, by adherence to the ideals of our constitution and that of our country we hope to assist in the up building of our Post in particular and the National Legion in general, and thus to “carry on” towards what should ever be the guiding star of our organization–a greater and broader conception of Americanism.