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 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 Early History of the Department of Arkansas
Arkansas was represented from the start in the formation of The American Legion. Arkansas attended both the Paris caucus and the St. Louis caucus in 1919.
An advance committee with members from each state met May 6, 1919, in St. Louis, Missouri, to prepare for a general caucus May 8-10, 1919. Thomas A. Jackson of Little Rock was the advance delegate from Arkansas.
Arkansas was the first in the United States to be incorporated. Delegates to the St. Louis caucus came straight home to Arkansas and filed a petition in Pulaski Circuit Court, incorporating "The American Legion." This was done on May 12, 1919, and records of 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, and also one of the signers of the 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.
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. (This trophy is awarded to the Department which first attains its Nationally assigned membership quota.) Arkansas was the first Department to have every Post in the State reach its assigned quota. This happened 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, and State aid for administrative support of a child welfare division.
Two Arkansans, Sam Rorex and R.W. Sisson, Past Department Commanders, helped 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 Legion or laws for the benefit of all veterans.
The Department and scores upon scores of its Post have sponsored all types of Community, State and National projects, Americanism and Youth activities too numerous to list here 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 his Community, State and Nation.
"Still Serving America"
P.O. Box 3280 -- 7th & Victory Street Little Rock, AR 72203