At the Twenty-second Annual Convention, August 18-20, 1940, of The American Legion, Department of Texas, a resolution was adopted authorizing the Department Executive Committee to appoint a special committee to investigate organization plans for Black veterans of Texas. After examination of methods used by various southern states, the “Florida Plan” was selected as the one most appropriate for adoption by Texas.
In 1942, the Black Veterans Organization was now ready to be launched. On April 6, 1942, a Post constitution and by-laws was adopted by the Department Executive Committee. Posts were to be organized, with annual dues set at one dollar per member. Ten members would be required to establish a charter, and a local white post would be the sponsor with a member sitting in on meetings. Minutes of meetings were to be submitted to the sponsoring post for ratification.
On June 7, 1942, the Black Veterans of the World War in Texas met in Hearne to perfect the organization. Ed Riedel, chairman of the Negro Committee, presided. Houston was selected as state headquarters. J.E. Armstead of Houston was elected as Department Commander, and reported to the Department Convention that posts had been established at Hearne, Brady, Wellington, Longview, Tyler, Honey Grove, Lubbock, El Paso, Huntsville, Calvert, Bremond, and Houston. Department Commander Andrew Dilworth was present and addressed the Convention.
The problem of membership for the Negro veteran who had served his country in two world wars, and who could join The American Legion in other states but who had no veterans’ organization open to him in Texas, had not been satisfactorily solved by the organization of Colored Veterans of the World War. A separate district known as District 22 was set up by the Department of Texas. The membership was composed entirely of eligible veterans of African descent. Posts were organized under the sponsorship of and with the consent of white posts which were made up of members other than those of African descent. The letter “A” was added to the number of the sponsoring post. J. E. Armstead of Houston was appointed district commander and organizer. Tillman Henderson, also of Houston, was chosen from the from the membership at large to serve as district vice commander and assistant organizer. These appointments were made by the Department Commander and approved by the Executive Committee. The first charter application for a Negro post came from San Antonio No. 366, October 20, 1945, and the second application was received two days later from Houston No. 52.
On January 7, 1946, a temporary charter was issued to Post 33A, later renamed in honor of World War II hero Dorie E. Miller of Waco, Texas. A permanent charter was issued on June 19, 1948. Dorie Miller was. a cook aboard the West Virginia and during the Pearl Harbor attack - he moved his captain to a safer place and used a machine gun that he had not been trained to use. He managed to shoot down 1 or 2 Japanese planes in the process.
A gigantic patriotism program, named “Fires of Freedom” was conducted over the state on December 7, 1951. Commander Charles Gibson commended the several hundred posts that participated, giving special mention to Beaumont Post No. 33 and Dorie E. Miller Post No. 817. He declared:”…they were burning “Fires of Freedom” from candles to bonfires. It …was a huge affair, a great thing!”
The bringing of black legionnaires in Texas into full accord with legion principles was accomplished in Thirty-Sixth Annual Convention assembled in Fort Worth July 29-August 1, 1954. A sixth division at-large was created, and the black posts became independently operational within the regular existing twenty districts under the four standing divisions. Dr. L. L. Melton, Post 817, was selected as Vice-Commander, 6th Division and served in this capacity for four terms.
Howard Lee Marks, Post 817, was elected Department Vice Commander for 1985-1986. He declared to the 1985 Convention delegates: “Let’s work together this year for the Legion!”
The first post meetings were held at the YMCA on Neches Street in Beaumont. In 1948, the first permanent structure for the post was located at 1188 Ewing Street. Under the leadership of Post Commander Hiblet Briggs, Jr. land was purchased and a new building was erected at 3430 West Cardinal Drive in October 1997. The mortgage was burned during the Legion Birthday celebration held in March 2007.
In addition to Dr. Melton and Howard Marks, Hiblet Briggs , Ashton Thomas, Charles Denson , Milton R. Chatham and Glenda Guillory-Simon have served the Department of Texas as 2nd District Commanders, Jerry Tatman as Department Sergeant at Arms, Eluis Guillory as Department Assistant Sergeant-at-Arms, Cheryl L. Williams and Charles R. Denson as Department Chaplain. Ashton Thomas has served as 2nd Division Commander.
Dorie E. Miller Post No. 817 is very active in The American Legion programs; i.e., Boys State, American Legion High School Oratorical; American Legion School Awards and scholarships.
Past Commanders: L. L. Melton; Obriel Williams; Grover Barlow; Aubrey Ratcliff; Garfield Como; Gilbert Corbin; Walter McClain; Terry Charlton; Howard Marks; David Jenkins; Hiblet Briggs, Jr.; Jessie Bean; Ashton Thomas; Charles R. Denson; Nelson Mouton, Joseph Simpson and Raymond Evans.
Under the leadership of Post Commander Ashton Thomas, a committee was established to study the feasibility of starting a Sons of The American Legion Squadron. After a few months, a squadron was established in 2001 and Milton R. Chatham was selected as Squadron Commander. Charter members: Khristopher Mewa, Mathieu Mewa, Derrick Greer, Marcus Greer, Clifton Guillory, Adrian Caldwell, Brandon Coleman, Cornelius Jones, Damien Jones, Marlon Lewis, Darius Mitchell, Desmond Mitchell, Devin Moore, Ike Simon, Milton R. Chatham
A Women's Auxiliary of American Legion Post ____ was formed on _______. The Legion has every reason to be proud of it's Auxiliary. Auxiliary members are always anxious and willing to co-operate in every Legion activity.
A Sons of the Legion for American Legion Post 817 was formed in 2002. The Legion has every reason to be proud of it's Sons of Legion unit, which gained statewide recognition because of it's programs of service.
MEMORIAL DAY has always been an outstanding occasion in this community. In addition to memorial events throughout the Beaumont community, the goal of every Veteran to it's last man is to keep MEMORIAL DAY sacred to the memory of our war dead of all of the wars of the country; and all graves are decorated on this National Holiday.
ARMISTICE DAY, now called VETERANS' DAY, originally marked the end of fighting in World War I. It is an important holiday on the calendar of Legionnaires everywhere and in the hearts of all Veterans.
Each year, active members place a flag on each Veteran's grave.
Scholarships and Community Projects
American LegionPost 817 sponsors various scholarships for the further education of our children. We also sponsor and financially assist many worthy community projects and programs initiated by the National American Legion.
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