A group of local Legionnaires and spouses joined together to honor eight of its members, each with more than 50 years of membership at the local post. Those with 68 years of membership are Billy Beard, Marion T. Pope Jr. and Thomas “Andy” Roach.
Edward Cochran has 64 years of membership. Dr. William H. Nichols Jr., 57 years, Joe D. Manous, 56 years, and Dr. Carl Edge Jr. and Wilbur Hattendorf each have 54 years membership.
Beard, Nichols and Hattendorf each spoke about the organization they joined and their pride in being members of the American Legion during the event.
“I joined the Legion soon after I came out of World War II and there were about six World War I members there, and they put me on a committee and I had the privilege of working with them,” Beard said Tuesday. “I have been a member there all these years, and I still try to be a regular.”
Beard said getting to be with other veterans is an important part of the experience at the post.
“I have had a really good relationship with all these people and still do. I served 18 months overseas in World War II and it means a lot to me to be with fellow members who were in World War II and I try to make every meeting,” Beard said.
The Canton Post was established in 1919 and named for Thomas M. Brady, the first man from Cherokee County to die in World War I.
The American Legion was formed when a group of World War I veterans, concerned about their country and their fellow veterans, met first in Paris in 1919 and came up with the idea to form an organization to help fellow veterans who were not going home in the same healthy conditions they had left in.
They were also concerned about the widows and orphans who would not have a veteran coming home, the organization’s history shows.
The second meeting to plan the organization was held in St. Louis in 1919, where a movement was afoot to nominate Theodore Roosevelt Jr. as the first national commander. A World War I hero and son of a former president, Roosevelt was perceived to have political ambitions and possibly even follow in his father’s footsteps.
But Roosevelt would not accept the nomination. Over shouts of “We Want Teddy,” Roosevelt told the crowd, “I wish to withdraw my name for a number of reasons ... We are gathered together for a very high purpose. I want every American through the length and breadth of this land to realize that there is not a man in this caucus who is seeking anything for himself, personally, but that he is simply working for the good of the entire situation,” the Legion said in a release.
Roosevelt knew that the best way for The American Legion to advance its founding pillars of fighting for a strong national defense, caring for veterans, establishing wholesome youth programs and promoting Americanism was to avoid partisanship and political labels, the release said.
While many Democrats, Republicans and Independents have been active in The American Legion during its 95-year history, the organization was beholden only to “God and Country,” the release said.
Military members and veterans with honorable discharge from service during a war period are eligible for membership in The American Legion.
For information on becoming a member, contact Post Cmdr. Raymond Rollins at (770) 841-5833.