By MOLLIE S. WATERS
The Greenville Standard
Greenville’s American Legion Post 24 and the Butler County Historical and Genealogical Society held a joint meeting on Sunday at 2 p.m. at the American Legion building at the fairgrounds.
The guest speaker for the program was Walter Parmer, who is a member of the local American Legion Post 24.
Parmer’s topic was a brief history of the American Legion.
“If I had known how difficult it was going to be to condense 100 years’ worth of American Legion history into such a short time,” said Parmer jokingly, “I might have declined the offer to speak.”
Parmer explained how the American Legion grew out of a need to help support American veterans.
Although there were organizations that were supposed to assist veterans after the Civil War, those entities became more concerned with politics than with veterans’ affairs.
“President Lincoln made a plea for all the soldiers to be taken care of,” said Parmer. “In the North, the Grand Army of the Republic formed, and in the South, the United Confederate Veterans formed.
“The two organizations didn’t take care of the soldiers. They became political strongholds.”
According to Parmer, the Grand Army of the Republic became affiliated with the Republican party while the United Confederate Veterans became affiliated with the Democratic party.
Parmer went on to explain that after the Civil War, and due to the heavy losses sustained during it, that most Americans wanted to stay out of war at all costs.
However, once the Germans started sinking American ships that were carrying relief efforts to the Allied Forces during World War I, public outcry in the United States forced then President Woodrow Wilson to ask Congress to declare war.
America then entered the fray.
It was after those soldiers returned that the American Legion truly began to take shape.
Although former President Theodore Roosevelt had tried to get the American Legion off the ground during his tenure as American’s leader, it was his son who really got the ball rolling.
“Teddy, Jr., leaped at the opportunity to recreate the American Legion,” said Parmer.
The group originally focused on helping veterans, creating cemeteries in Europe to honor the soldiers who had been killed in battle and were buried there, and caring for the widows and children of those veterans who had given the ultimate sacrifice.
“The actions of the American Legion were commendable,” said Parmer.
Parmer also shared some history of Greenville’s American Legion Post 24’s involvement in the community, such as hosting events like dances, cookouts, and even donkey baseball to raise money for the organization.
Parmer then turned the program over to T. A. Newton, a long-time Post 24 member who told how the club became inactive from 1992-2005, but it returned to active status in 2005 with the help of the late Eric Cates and Ed Jernigan.
Once it was reestablished, Gene Autrey served as their first commanding leader.
According to Parmer, there are currently 90 members in Post 24.
The next meeting of the Butler County Historical and Genealogical Society will be a regular meeting, which will be held on April 28 at 2 p.m. at City Hall. The guest speaker is Judge Trippy McGuire.