The American Legion was chartered by Congress in 1919 as a patriotic, war-time veterans organization, devoted to mutual helpfulness. It is a not-for-profit community-service organization which now numbers nearly 2.3 million members, men and women, in nearly 15,000 American Legion posts worldwide. These posts are organized into 55 departments -- one each for the 50 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, France, Mexico, and the Philippines. The American Legion's National Headquarters is in Indianapolis, Indiana, with additional offices in Washington, DC. In addition to thousands of volunteers serving in leadership and program implementation capacities in local communities to the Legion's standing national commissions and committees, the national organization has a regular full-time staff of about 300 employees.
A Brief History of the Department of Arkansas
Arkansas was represented from the start in the formation of The American Legion and attended both the Paris caucus and the St. Louis caucus back in 1919.
An advance committee with members from each state met May 6, 1919, in St. Louis, Missouri, to prepare for a general caucus which was held May 8-10, 1919. Thomas A. Jackson of Little Rock was the advance delegate from Arkansas.
Arkansas was the first Department in the United States to be incorporated. Delegates to the St. Louis caucus came straight home to Arkansas and filed a petition in Pulaski County Circuit Court incorporating "The American Legion." This was done on May 12, 1919, and records of the American Legion National Headquarters show it was the first incorporation of the organization in the United States.
The first Department Commander of Arkansas was J. J. Harrison, who was also one of the signers of the American Legion Congressional Charter. The Arkansas Department was again incorporated by the General Assembly of Arkansas, Act 280 of 1929, and still operates under that charter.
The American Legion Department of Arkansas was the first Department to establish its own weekly newspaper, and contributed two presidents to The American Legion Press Association, an organization of editors of Legion Posts and Department publications.
Arkansas was the first Department to win the General Henri Gourard Trophy three years in succession (a trophy awarded to the Department which attains its nationally assigned membership quota), and Arkansas was the first Department to have every Post in the State reach its assigned quota. This milestone was reached back in 1939.
Arkansas was the first Department to obtain enactment of a law creating a State-supported Veterans Service Bureau to assist all veterans with claims for government benefits, as well as State aid for administrative support of a child welfare division.
Two Arkansans, Sam Rorex and R.W. Sisson, both Past Department Commanders, helped to write and obtain passage of the G. I. Bill of Rights in 1944. Arkansas Legionnaires have taken the lead in bringing about many beneficial national programs of The American Legion and laws for the benefit of all veterans.
The Department of Arkansas and many of its Posts have also sponsored many types of Community, State, and National projects and programs, as well as Americanism and Youth activities far too numerous to list since its founding in 1919. The only limit to the good The American Legion can do is the self-imposed limitation on the willingness of the individual Legionnaire to serve their Community, State, and Nation
The American Legion Department of Arkansas proudly celebrates its 100th Birthday on this momentous occasion...March 15, 2019.