Gerald McClain Post 129 Historian presented a program to members on the Centennial Celebration by the American Legion from 1919-2019 within Post 129 Stillwater. World War One started for the United States April 6, 1917 and ended on November 11, 1918 Armistice day now called Veterans Day. World War One really started June 28, 1914 when Archduke Franz Ferdinand assassinated in Sarajevo, but the U.S.A did not enter the war until 1917. During the one year, 7 months and 5-day war over 110,000 American deaths occurred. On March 15-16, 1919 members of the American Expeditionary Force convene in Paris for the first American Legion caucus. On May 8-9, 1919 in the St. Louis Caucus “The American Legion" is adopted as the organization's official name. On June 9, 1919 the National Executive Committee adopts the Legion emblem. Dr. C. E. Sexton who became the first commander of the American Legion post in Stillwater in 1919 said “It so happened that I was acting assistant to a M.D. from Washington. We had some agitators, and that was the first time that it was thought that having the American Legion in Stillwater would be a good idea. One of the greatest things we have done is to prevent radicalism, criminalism, and agitation that would be detrimental to Stillwater and for the National Government.” Around September 1, 1919 Dr. C. E. Sexton said “In order to get the first meeting established, I remember leasing a small room down at the Odd Fellow Hall, buying some cigarettes and telling the boys that we were going to have a little meeting. Everything went along lovely and we signed up quite a few men.” On October 13, 1919 almost a month before the first legion convention in Minneapolis on November 10-11, 1919 a group of Stillwater veterans, estimated to number about 20, met in the I.O.O.F. Lodge on East 9th street and organized the Stillwater American Legion Post. On September 16, 1919 Congress charters The American Legion and said legion members must be veterans during a time of war to be eligible to join. Sons of the American Legion (SAL) is also available for those who have a father or grandfather who was in the military. On November 10-11, 1919 the first Legion convention convenes in Minneapolis, Minnesota.
Dr. C. E. Sexton was the first Commander and A. B. Alcott was the first Adjutant of the Stillwater Post. Mr. American Legion A. B. (Red) Alcott was Post Adjutant from 1919-1969 (50 years) and was Stillwater mayor for 12 years. Charter members: James E. Berry, later lieutenant governor, Roy t. Hoke, Roy Newton, John Hinkel, C. Ray Smith, Dave L. Kennicutt, Charles G. Denny, Deane A. Bishop, Carl S. Andrew, Walter M. Denny, Albert L. Wright, G. N. Douglass, Ray Atherton and John J.R. Reid. On January 18, 1920 the American Legion Post applied for a charter and was granted a charter on January 27, 1920 and Post number 129 was granted. Carter Cary Hanner Born 4 June 1878 was a Stillwater native that loved being a soldier. Carter joined the National Guard in 1914 at Guthrie. He sent to France July 4, 1918. His buddies said “he was always a soldier at heart”. Captain Hanner was killed in action October 8, 1918 in the Meuse-Argonne drive which cracked the German Hindenburg line. He is buried in the American cemetery at the battlefield site near Romagne, France. Plot C, Row 39, 2nd Grave. Captain Hanner was awarded the Croix de guerre by France for gallantry in action. The Stillwater post was named Carter C. Hanner American Legion Post 129 when chartered January 27, 1920. The Stillwater Post 129 displays Captain Hanner’s picture on the wall along with some of his sketches he made during his military career. In 1921-22 Anna Nash Thatcher was the first Post 129 Auxiliary President and one of the charter members was Zella Hanner, the wife of Cary Hanner who died in WWI.
Earl Kennicutt the 8th Post 129 Commander 1925-26 said “I served during the building and dedication of the building. In those times the commander’s job was not hard; the boys all gave help and worked.” A new building was built at 611 N. Main with $100 Bonds. A two story building with a kitchen and dance hall on the second floor and Post 129 Office and two rental spaces on the first floor. Earl said “I recall that we did make trips to other towns and visit other Posts. This Stillwater Post was responsible for the Posts at Cushing, Pawnee, and Morrison. We accomplished a lot of work and got a building that we are proud of due to the help of the boys.” Clay Potts was the commander 1929-30. Clay said “I was Post Commander at the time when Legionnaires were at their prime (1929-30). Earl built the building during his administration and left it up to my administration to pay for it. The most important thing we did during my administration was to rent the bottom floor to the Dotter Brother’s Garage for $200 a month. We had 2 dances a week besides the other meetings we had. We could get 40 or 50 boys to do the work almost anytime.
We canceled 22 $100 bonds during my administration.”
At the beginning the Legion had an Annual “Goose Dinner” with all its trimmings every Armistice day. All the boys would buy or round up food for the event. Before the Legion Post was built we would meet over the Katz Department store. Sometimes meet at the county agent’s office at the court house and sometimes at the old Stillwater Motor Company that was Mike Gaines Garage. Or even old Nichols Hotel at tenth and main in a dining room.
Legion met for first time in 1925 in new Legion building…only had subfloor at the time.
Arthur Bernard (Red) Alcott Post 129 Adjutant 1919 – 1974 (55 years). Arthur was a Founder and Charter member in 1919 and in 1924-25 Red was Post Commander. During the 55 years serving the American Legion Post 129 in 1949 he became Mayor of Stillwater, Oklahoma for 12 years, serving longer than any other individual as mayor. Alcott Street is named after him. Arthur was Alternate National Executive Committeeman serving the National organization. In 1948 A. B. headed up a committee to raise funds to pay off the American Legion Children’s Home in Ponca City. Arthur Alcott, Mayor of Stillwater and prominent Legionnaire was critically wounded by a man supposedly deranged. Mr Alcott was sitti ng in his office at the time of the shooting. The man who attacked him then turned the pistol on himself committing suicide. Alcott had befriended the man numerous times and knew of no reason for him to attack him. For days Alcott was in a coma and physicians expressed doubt as to recovery. When blood donors were requested for Mayor Alcott more than 300 lined up and offered help. Legion members stood guard for several days and nights. As Red begin to recover he was transferred to the Army and Navy Hospital in Hot Springs, Arkansas and made a full recovery.
Dec 15, 1943 Harry W. Colmery from Kansas, past national commander of The American Legion, writes in longhand on Mayflower Hotel stationery in Washington D. C. the first draft of what will become the “GI Bill of Rights.”
On June 22, 1944 President Franklin D. Roosevelt signs into law the original GI Bill of Rights. Higher education becomes democratized after 8 million veterans go to school on the GI Bill, get better jobs, buy houses in the suburbs and raise families. For every dollar spent on educating veterans, the U.S. economy eventually gets $7 back.
In 1949 Post 129 renamed the post The Carter C. Hanner-Mamon G. Sharp American Legion Post 129 in honor of Hanner and of Mamon G. Sharp that was killed in WWII. Captain Mamon Grey Sharp was Stillwater's first soldier to make the supreme sacrifice for his country and mankind during World War II. Mamon was born 12 October 1905. It was at Cebu in the Philippines that Captain Sharp, a few fellow Americans, and natives fought a bitter battle against overwhelming odds. Sharp was one of our sons who was expendable and didn't have a chance against the invading forces of the Japanese. Mamon Sharp was killed in action April 19, 1942. After 3 burials, Sharp now rests in plot B, row 2, grave 131, Fort McKinley U.S. Military Cemetery, Manila, Philippine Islands.
Preston J. Moore from Stillwater was elected National Commander of the American Legion 1958-59. Preston entering the U. S. Army as a private in 1941 and was discharged as a First Lieutenant in 1945. Served in the Pacific with the 5th Bombardment Group. Preston from Post 129 was the first WWII veteran elected to be State Commander 1948-49. Preston was elected Post 129 Commander 1954-55. Elected by Oklahoma as the National Executive Committeeman from 1955-58. Preston spent two years visiting every state and as many American Legion post as he could be campaigning for the National Commander position. In 1958 Preston Moore was elected National Commander serving for one year 1958-59. Preston moved to Oklahoma City in 1960 working as a lawyer and ran for state political office. “Preston was a large, powerful politician. He had a booming voice”, said former Gov. George Nigh.
Genio Colasacco, was Post 129 Adjutant 1974-1995 (21 years). Genio contributions were so many and extended over so many years that he became known as “Mr. American Legion”. In 1960-61 Genio was elected Post 129 Commander. In 1975-76 Genio was elected Department of Oklahoma Commander. Genio was Commissioner of the Oklahoma American Legion Baseball from 1977-97. (20 years) and in 1975, Genio was appointed one of seven National Commissioners of American Legion baseball and served till his death Jun 4, 1997.
How do you keep young men interested in the American Legion? At one it was the American Legion annual Possum hunt that had fun, excitement, endurance, friendship and good eating. The Possum Hunt tested men’s stamina, hunting skills and just plan ruggedness – all wrapped up in the Annual American Legion Possum hunt January 9, 1947. Possum Hunt is a mid-winter event “rain, snow, shine or sleet”. Help was expressed for a lot of wood gathering missions for the hunt. Location was 10 miles East and 200 yards North of Stillwater. A lighted lantern was placed at the 10-mile marker. Evening meal begins at 6:30pm of Steak and chili. Nothing said about eating possum. Plans are for the largest Possum Hunt ever for the American Legion Post 129.
Lawrence Roy is the current Post 129 Adjutant starting in 1995. Mr. Roy is a 65-year member of the American Legion. Lawrence Roy served as Post 129 Commander 73-74, 90-91, 93-94 and has held District Command positions. Lawrence served as the Department of Oklahoma Commander 1986-87. Lawrence served in the Korean War and retired as a Brigadier General from the Oklahoma National Guard in 1988. Lawrence was elected National Vice-Commander of 14 southern states in 1992. Mr. Roy also served on the National Executive Committee for Oklahoma for eight years, 1993-2001. Lawrence served Post 129 as chairman of the baseball committee from 1995 to 2014.
American Legion is a leader in supporting and helping veterans. On June 30, 2008: President Bush signs into law Post 9/11 Veterans Educ. Assist. Act, supported by the Legion. On Oct 22, 2009: President Obama signs the Veterans Health Care Budget Reform Act of 2009, guaranteeing advance funding for VA appropriations which was strongly supported by Legion. On October 2012: VA guarantees its 20 millionth home loan. On August 2017: The new GI Bill approved by removing burdensome cap in education benefits. On August 2017: Denise H. Rohan was elected as national commander, as first woman in the role in Legion’s history.
Post 129 members supporting the Department of Oklahoma is Dewey Clapp Post 129 Treasurer and Oklahoma Department Treasurer, Gerald McClain Post 129 Historian and Oklahoma Department Historian. Gerald McClain is also the Chairman of the Centennial Celebration for Oklahoma and Post 129 has a Centennial Celebration website with pictures of all commanders since 1919-present plus stories and images of events in Stillwater. https://centennial.legion.org/oklahoma/post129. Gerald McClain is also the Chairman of the Veterans Memorial Identification Projects in which you can see over 165 current memorials https://www.legion.org/memorials/?location=OK&sort=created_desc&submit=View. Membership in the American Legion is for veterans who were in the military at a time the USA was at war. But if your father or grandfather was in the military you may join as a Son of the American Legion and work in the legion helping with Veterans Day, Memorial Day and Family Dinners once a month. A collectors Centennial Celebration Coin is also available from the Department of Oklahoma legion website.