Post 19 of The American Legion Department of Louisiana is named after Captain James O. Hall, United States Army.
James Oliphant Hall was born on January 25, 1889 in Lake Arthur, LA. His friends in Jennings, LA and Jefferson Davis Parish called him “Ollie.” His parents are Dr. Edward Isaac Hall (born January 29, 1850 – died December 3, 1939) and Sarah Almira Estle (1857 – 1913). He had 5 sisters and two brothers. He was a graduate of Jennings High School. He received a Bachelor of Arts Degree from Louisiana State University (LSU) in 1913.
In high school and at LSU he enjoyed the reputation for being an excellent athlete, particularly on the football field. He was a 4-year letterman who played end on the LSU football team from 1909 to 1912. His teammates called him “Doc.”
While at LSU he was an esteemed and beloved member of the First Separate Troop, Louisiana Calvary, from Jennings, a National Guard unit. He attained the rank of Sergeant while with this unit. He represented his cavalry troop on their rifle team and he did very well. He was named to the Louisiana State Rifle Team, composed of military units from the state, and attended the U.S. Army Marksmanship Championship at Camp Perry, Ohio in 1909. Also during his time at LSU, he was a member of the military company there, serving with distinction. He was also a valued member of Kappa Sigma Fraternity at LSU.
After he graduated from LSU in 1913, he worked with his father at the Jennings Post Office. In January 1914 he travelled to Puerto Rico where he taught in the public schools and engaged in work for the Revenue Department. He returned to the United States in 1916 and taught at Lake Charles High School before enlisting in the U.S. Army in May 1917, shortly after the U.S. entered World War I. He was in the first Officer Training Camp conducted at Fort Logan H. Roots in Arkansas. The answers he gave on his Draft Registration Card in 1917 tell us a little bit about this man: Have you a father, mother, child under 12, or brother or sister under 12 who is solely dependent on you? _no; Married or single (which)? single; Race (specify which)? Caucasian; Do you claim exemption from the draft (specify grounds)? _No; Tall, medium or short (specify which)? Tall; Slender, medium or stout (which)? Medium; Color of eyes? brown; Color of hair? black; Bald? slight; Has person lost arm, leg, hand, feet or both eyes, or is he otherwise disabled? No.
While at Fort Logan H. Roots he wrote a letter to his father, Dr. E. I. Hall, which was published in the Jennings Daily Times-Record in May of 1917. It was reprinted in the May 2015 edition of the Jennings Rearview:
"We got here last Sunday and reported Monday morning. The first thing we had to do was to register and be assigned to our barracks. We were then marched over and examined physically. The physical examination is very thorough and if a man has anything wrong with him they are very apt to find it out. In our barracks we were given all our equipment except our uniform. We have not yet been given them and our citizens clothes are very dirty. Here is what we have to do in a day. Get up at 5:30 am, breakfast at 6, police the streets and quarters and do other things until 7:30 and at 7:30 we march out on the parade grounds and take physical exercises and then go on an hour’s march. We come back and have one-half hour’s rest, and then have some drills in some line assigned for the day. This drill lasts two hours. Then we have time to wash for dinner. We have one and one half hours at noon. At 1:30 pm, come back and rest for one-half hour and then we march out in the shade somewhere and hear a talk by the captain. Supper comes at 5:30 and then we can do as we please until 7:30 and from 7:30 to 10:00 we have to study or attend a conference. This keeps most of the men pretty tired but most of them seem to be doing well. Most all of the men are college men or men of special military qualifications, and as a rule they are exceptionally good boys. I suppose that there are seven or eight hundred men from Louisiana, and many are from LSU. Every time I turn around I meet somebody I know. Cullen Johnson and Harry Shelton seem to be getting along nicely. They are not in my company.
Jas. O. Hall
11h Company, Fort Logan H. Roots, Arkansas"
Hall did very well during the twelve weeks of Officer Training Camp at Fort Logan H. Roots. When he graduated, he received a direct commission to First Lieutenant. He was then assigned to Fort Pike, Arkansas where he compiled an exemplary record training three companies of soldiers. He was promoted to Captain and was transferred to Fort Meade, Maryland where he was assigned as a Training Officer with the 71st Infantry Regiment. It was during that time that he was stricken with influenza, from which he did not recover. He died at Fort Meade, Maryland on October 2, 1918. He was one of the casualties of the influenza pandemic of 1918, which infected 500 million people world-wide, resulting in the deaths of 50 to 100 million people, roughly 3 to 5% of the world population.
CPT Hall’s remains were sent home to Jennings. On Sunday, October 6, 1918 his body lay in state at the Jefferson Davis Parish court house. Hundreds of friends went to pay tribute to the young hero who gave his life for his country. Schoolchildren marched to the court house to honor the brave boy who had graduated from their school.
At 11:00 am the pall bearers, veterans of the Civil and Spanish-American Wars, bore the flag draped casket to the 1st Christian Church of Jennings, where the solemn service was held. CPT Hall was a devoted and consecrated member of this church congregation. Reverend Gray, Pastor of the church, read the selection from the scripture for the burial service. Reverend I. E. Adams, a friend of CPT Hall and a former pastor of the church, gave a eulogy of the splendid young man’s life, and in a beautiful and impressive manner spoke of the clean record and high character of CPT Hall.
At the conclusion of the services at the church, the procession moved to Greenwood Cemetery where the military honors were rendered. A firing squad composed of U.S. Army soldiers from Gerstner Field in Lake Charles fired the salute. The rose-laden casket was then lowered into the grave. Then Taps were sounded and all that was mortal of James O. Hall was laid to rest.
It is an honor for Post 19 of the American Legion, Department of Louisiana, to be named after an outstanding soldier and hero like Captain James Oliphant Hall.