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American Legion, SOUTHAMPTON POST NO. 73 — 1924

Franklin, Virginia

American Legion, 1924

Examination of the files of Southampton Post No. 73 of the American Legion discloses the fact that this organization came into existence in the fall of 1919. The summer preceding had witnessed the return from Europe of practically all those who had served overseas. On June 25th there had been a “Home-Coming Celebration” in Franklin, in which the entire county had joined. Soldiers and sailors and marines marched beneath an arch of triumph on Main Street, and past a reviewing stand on which sat gold star parents and relatives of those who came not back. It had been a day of gladness mingled with sorrow, of rejoicing alloyed with grief, of thanksgiving interspersed with prayers for those who were sick at heart.

Followed then the process of forgetting. The war was over. The sunshine of peace had riven the clouds and turned them inside out to show the silver lining. The boys had come home. Hearth fires which had been kept burning through long and weary months were extinguished. ‘Twere better to leave to the past its trials and sorrows and sacrifices and gloomy forebodings. A future full of golden promise stretched ahead. Bad dreams fly off with the dawn. And for those who served, as well as for those who stayed at home, there was no denying that a new day had dawned.

But the ex-service men themselves did not forget. If they said little it was because they were thinking much. They had new problems to confront and new difficulties to overcome. In time of peace they must carry on with the same courage and the same high resolve that they had displayed in time of war. Some of them, inured to hardship and contemptuous of dangers, plunged headlong into matrimony; others, having escaped violent demises on the gory fields of France, were planning new campaigns which would lift then to the delectable heights of success. Concerning their experiences and their plans, they were reticent, a quality at first difficult to understand, but ultimately acquiesced in.

Nothing could have been more natural than that the ex-service men should organize for mutual support. Their interests were identical; their careers possessed much in common. The American Legion, born in Paris after the armistice, soon grew to unbelievable proportions. Its aims and aspirations, adopted after careful study, appealed to all those who were American in heart and conscience. Perpetuation of the principles for which the New World invaded the Old was a solid foundation upon which all could stand. The spectacle of millions of fighting men uniting in a great fraternity was at once thrilling and inspiring. It boded well for the nation’s future.

On the evening of October 3, 1919, a group of fifteen ex-service men assembled in the upstairs room of Franklin’s Hotel de Ville for the purpose of securing a charter and arganizing a post of the American Legion. This group was composed of the following: General C. C. Vaughan, Jr., Thomas D. Boone, Curtis Byrd, Robert E. Jones, John I_. Bawls, Davis D. Pillow, C. C. Vaughan, III, Barclay Pretlow, Franklin Edwards, Emmett Byrd, John C. Parker, Jr., Sol W. Bawls, Marshall E. Howell, Joe Gay Boone and Dr. Beaman Story. Until a permanent organization could be effected General Vaughan was elected Post commander and Thomas D. Boone, Post adjutant. Others holding office temporarily were: Franklin Edward’s, vice-commander; C. C. Vaughan, III, finance officer; E. T. Fitzgerald, war risk officer; John C. Parker, Jr., historian.

Succeeding General Vaughan as Post commander in January, 1920, was Franklin Edwards, who had captained a company of the Twenty-ninth Division during the Meuse-Argonne offensive and after. Thomas D. Boone was re-elected adjutant. In 1921 John C. Parker, Jr., was Post commander and George O. Watkins adjutant. In 1922 these offices were filled respectively by C. A. Cutchins, Jr., and Clinton H. Jones. Dr. Beaman Story was Past commander in 1923 and Robert M. Newton was adjutant. Present officers include C. C. Vaughan, III, Post commander; Thurman R. Pierce, vice-commander; Clinton H. Jones, adjutant; Franklin Edwards, finance officer; J. A. Beaton, sergeant-at-arms; John C. Parker, Jr., chaplain.

In the early days of its existence the Post met in various places, sometimes in the mayor’s office above referred to, sometimes in the display room of Bawls’ Garage, and sometimes in the office of John C. Parker, Jr. It was not until May 9, 1921, that the Post secured permission from Adjutant General Jo. Lane Stern, of the Virginia National Guard, to use the Armory building in Franklin as headquarters and rendezvous. Since that date, thanks to the efforts of the Woman’s Auxiliary, a club room has been furnished and made comfortable for the members of the Legion, and in this room the Post meets an the first Tuesday of each month. A permanent home has been found mare satisfactory than the old arrangement of moving from place to place. Legionaries will be prouder than ever of their home just as soon as Comrade Bill Pace has painted the exterior as per agreement reached at the June meeting, 1924.

Southampton Post was one of the first Posts in Virginia to adopt the outpost idea as promulgated by Department Headquarters. On July 24, 1923, at the regular meeting of the Past, the constitution was amended to provide far outposts in Southampton County, and Post Commander Beaman Story was authorized to proceed with the organization of an outpost in Courtland, the county seat. Acting under this authority he organized the Courtland Outpost No. 1 on August 1, 1923, having as its charter members the following veterans: Charles W. Davis, who was elected commander of the outpost; B. E. Livesay, Jr., adjutant; George W. Reese, finance officer; Thomas B. Bell, sergeant-at-arms; Otis M. Joyner, T. H. Birdsong, Jr., E. H. Brooks, W. B. Smith, Edward S. Manry, John W. Rollison and G. H. Yates.

As a result of the “D” Day campaign, conducted on March 18th last, the membership of Southampton Post No. 73 increased from forty-four to ninety-six. At this writing the membership numbers 102. By more than doubling its enrollment the Post received honorable mention from headquarters of the Virginia Department. One of the goals which the Post has set is a membership roster containing the names of all men who went to the war from Southampton County, and who are now residing within the jurisdiction of the Post. Optimistic workers believe that the goal is not unattainable.

No history of Southampton Post No. 73 is complete that does not mention the Woman’s Auxiliary, which is indispensable to the Legion’s success in whatever it undertakes. Organized May 23, 1920, with Mrs. C. C. Vaughan, Jr., as its president, Mrs. Sue Pretlow its vice-president, Miss Christine Rawls its treasurer and Mrs. C. W. Darden its secretary, the Auxiliary has not only co-operated in every movement begun by the Legion but has on several occasions initiated drives of its own, the most notable being the planting of trees alongside the, concrete highway beyond Sebrell. Officers of the Auxiliary for 1924 are: Miss Bessie Dillon, president; Mrs. Beaman Story, vice-president; Miss Katherine Vaughan, treasurer; Mrs. Robert E. Darden, secretary.

Southampton Post, while in no sense a political organization, stresses the importance of participation in politics by its members as citizens of a republic which gives to every man a voice in the government. Legionnaires are good citizens because they realize the importance of the ballot; they are progressive because they support every movement which makes for better conditions abroad as well as at home; they are optimistic because they know their strength and are unafraid; they stick together because they were brothers in arms. The Legion has been, and will continue to be, a force with which to be reckoned wherever right and justice are imperilled and sinister doctrines raise their heads.

Unlike many of its contemporaries, Southampton Post has been handicapped by a lack of funds. There are many things the Post would do if it had the money. First of all, it would build a home of its own. The Armory is good for so many years longer, and no more. In addition, the State may at any time take over the structure for purposes of its own. Money, raised from current dues generally goes for current expenses. Several plays have been presented which added to the Post’s exchequer, and some which knocked a hole therein as big as the caverns of Luray. But the Legion is undaunted; it will continue to give plays until its treasury is filled with golden doubloons or as empty as the cupboard of old Mother Hubbard. Many projects, still in the realm of conjecture and discussion, will be carried forward to completion. A worthy past gives promise of a glorious future. The motto of the Post might well be that of the Thirty-fourth Infantry “Toujours en avant”-Always forward!