Mathew Adrian Tinley, physician and surgeon, retired lieutenant general and commander of the 34th Infantry Division, was the first commander of the Iowa Department of The American Legion.
His military career began with his participation in his high school's cadet company, and after graduation he joined the Dodge Light Guards, 3rd Iowa Infantry as a private. By the time of the Spanish-American War in 1898, he had become first sergeant of his company. He began college at the University of Nebraska in 1894. In April 1898 he dropped out of medical school as he was called to active duty for the Spanish-American War.
After training in Des Moines he was sent to the Philippine Islands as a second lieutenant with the 51st Iowa Volunteer Infantry. In August 1917, he was in Europe with the 42nd Rainbow Division. In October 1917, he was promoted to colonel and placed in command of the 168th Infantry Regiment of the 42nd Division. On July 7, 1921, he was given command of the 67th Infantry Brigade as brigadier general. He was promoted to major general and given command of the 34th Division in 1924.
MG Tinley combined a distinguished military career with the practice of the medical profession in Council Bluffs. Always known as "Dr. Mat," he probably was the only Iowa Army combat officer who was simultaneously a practicing physician. His service spanned more than 45 years, with almost four years of this period in federal service
LTG Tinley was elected Sept. 4, 1919, as the first commander of the Iowa Department of The American Legion. University of Iowa historian Jacob Swisher wrote a book, "The American Legion in Iowa 1919-1929," that states Tinley was selected as chairman of the temporary executive committee for the period between the St Louis caucus on May 8-10 and the first Iowa convention on September 4.
On page 71 of Swisher's book, it is stated that by the second convention, the one where Tinley presided as commander, Iowa contained 542 posts with 37,299 members. To have accomplished that growth in the 16 months between May 1919 and September 1920 is a tribute to his leadership and ability to "speak the word" of The American Legion.
The national American Legion had a saying around 1920, “Iowa Leads The Legion!” This is at least partially due to General Tinley’s influence in getting these new posts. Mathew Adrian Tinley died at Council Bluffs on March 11, 1956.