Looking Back: Southampton Post No. 73 of the American Legion was chartered

Published 5:14 pm Tuesday, October 1, 2019

Earlier, national ‘American Legion’ organization was formed

Sept. 30, 1919

By Clyde Parker

american legion charter

The charter for the American Legion Post 73 was officiated in August 1931. Stephen H. Cowles | The Tidewater News

The “Great World War,” which was fought from 1914 to 1918, later called World War I, ended with the Armistice on Nov. 11, 1918; however, in the early part of the year 1919, there were, still in Europe, nearly 2 million American troops who wanted to go home. And, there were another 2 million or so troops in the United States awaiting official discharge.

Late in January of 1919, four line-officers of the American Expeditionary Force met in Paris to renew acquaintances. Each one had led a battalion or regiment into battle during the European War: William J. Donovan of the 69th Division of New York City’s “Fighting Irish;” Theodore Roosevelt Jr. of the 1st Division; George S. White, 88th Division; and Eric Fisher Wood, 41st Division. The four officers discussed camaraderie, morale and assistance to the widows and children of deceased war veterans. Shouldn’t veteran soldiers and sailors join together as civilians to uphold and protect the traditional values unique to America?

The four line-officers met again in February of 1919 to pursue their idea of a veteran’s organization and in the “Stars and Stripes,” on March 7, there was a front-page announcement inviting veterans from all divisions to be represented at a Paris Caucus, on March 12-17, 1919. It was decided at that time that Roosevelt should go to the United States for the purpose of promoting a caucus in America, since they felt he would be the most effective person. The Paris Caucus selected the name of the organization to be the “The American Legion.”

In the United States, from March through May of 1919, Roosevelt called on governors, mayors and others to encourage caucuses throughout the United States. In May of 1919, a national conference was held in St. Louis. Through the assemblages described in the foregoing and the resulting membership development and growth, the American Legion, with 700,000 enrollments, officially came into being. The “American Legion” concept was accepted and adopted, and, in it, there would be no rank recognition of its members.

Virginia Department of the ‘American Legion’ is formed

The Virginia Department of the American Legion came into being in May of 1919. A representative group of ex-service men from various sections of the state met and appointed an executive committee which was tasked to see that local Legion posts were organized. Representatives of 20 Virginia posts attended the May 1919 St. Louis conference. The Virginia Department of the American Legion was established.

The first state convention was held in Roanoke in October 1919, with 99 local posts organized and delegates from 73 of those posts in attendance.

‘Southampton American Legion Post 73’ is chartered

Although the “Great World War” ended on Nov. 11, 1918, it wasn’t until June 25, 1919, that a Southampton “homecoming” celebration was held. In Franklin, there was a big parade and other celebrations. Southampton County soldiers, sailors, and marines marched beneath an arch of triumph on Main Street; and, they passed 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 of heart.

It was natural that local ex-servicemen should organize for mutual support. Their interests were identical; their careers possessed much in common. The spectacle of millions of fighting men uniting in a great fraternity was at once thrilling and inspiring.

On Sept. 30, 1919, an American Legion charter was approved for Southampton County and was designated as Post No. 73. On Oct. 3, 1919, the first official meeting was held at Franklin’s Hotel de Ville, with the following as charter members: General C.C. Vaughan Jr., Thomas D. Boone, Curtis Boone, Robert E. Jones, John L. Rawls, Davis D. Pillow, C.C. Vaughan III, Barclay Pretlow, Franklin Edwards, Emmett Byrd, John C. Parker Jr., Sol W. Rawls, Marshall E. Howell, Joe Gay Boone and Dr. Beaman Story. General Vaughan was elected post commander and Thomas D. Boone, post adjutant. Others holding office were: Franklin Edwards, Vice Commander; C. C. Vaughan III, finance officer; E. T. Fitzgerald, War Risk officer; and John C. Parker Jr., historian.

Succeeding General Vaughan as post commander, in January 1920, was Franklin Edwards, who had captained a company of the 29th Division during and after the Meuse-Argonne offensive. In 1921, John C. Parker Jr. was elected 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 post commander in 1923 and Robert M. Newton was adjutant. In 1924, C.C. Vaughan III was post commander; Thurman R. Pierce, vice-commander; Clinton H. Jones, adjutant; Franklin Edwards, Finance Officer; J. A. Beaton, sergeant-at-arms; and John C. Parker, Jr., chaplain.

In the early days of its existence, the Post met in various places: in the mayor’s office, above referred to; in the display room of Rawls’ Garage; in the office of John C. Parker Jr; and at the Stonewall Hotel. In May 1921, the Post home was established in the Fourth Avenue Armory Building.

In 1923, under the leadership of Commander Beaman Story, established an American Legion Post in Courtland. Designated as Courtland Outpost No. 1, its charter members were veterans Charles W. Davis, commander; 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.

The Woman’s Auxiliary of Southampton Post No. 73 was chartered on Dec. 15, 1922, with Mrs. C.C. Vaughan Jr. as its president; Mrs. Sue Pretlow, vice-president; Miss Christine Rawls, treasurer; and Mrs. Colgate Whitehead Darden Sr., secretary.

The first project in which the Auxiliary worked was the planting of trees alongside the new concrete highway just north of Sebrell. In 1924, the Auxiliary officers were as follows: Miss Bessie Dillon, president; Mrs. Beaman Story, vice president; Miss Katherine Vaughan, treasurer; and Mrs. Robert E. Darden, secretary.

In March of 1972, Ruth Camp Campbell and Willie Camp Younts, daughters of Paul D. Camp, donated land for a Post building. Over a period of time, through various fundraising projects and donations, sufficient funds became available for construction of a building. On Sept. 26, 1978, Southampton Post No. 73 met for the first time in their new home. In the early 1980s, through further fundraising efforts, money was available for property upgrading.

On July 3, 1990, the Post was re-chartered and renamed “Charles R. Younts American Legion Post 73.”

Among the various projects conducted by the Post are:

• The “Boys State” and “Girls State” programs, are designed to instruct its participants in the operation of government on the state and local levels. A Boys/Girls State week is conducted each June during which high school juniors attend events held in Richmond at the State Capitol. State leaders, such as the governor, lieutenant governor, attorney general, and members of the legislature, are invited to meet with the boys and discuss their roles in state government. And mock sessions of the Virginia General Assembly are conducted.

• On state and national holidays, Legion members put flags out on Franklin streets; facilitate disposal of worn and damaged flags; and, for fundraising, the Franklin Post conducts two community fish-fries each year.

As of Sept. 30, the Charles R. Younts American Legion Post No. 73 regular membership stands at 82, and the Auxiliary has 16 active members and 11 inactive members.

Current Charles R. Younts American Legion Post 73 officers:

David Scott, commander; Lonnie Vaughan, first vice commander; David Flythe, second vice commander; Kenneth Gay, adjutant; Howard Vinson, chaplain; Wayne Blythe, finance officer;

Sammy Davis, sergeant-at-arms; Bobby Branch, Linwood Green and Michael Livesay, board members.