American Legion in Hopewell
As with The Department of Virginia, the American Legion presence in Hopewell began with military veterans returning from World War I. Hopewell’s first American Legion Post was established on October 2, 1919 in the “B Village” YMCA. Chartered as Post 80, its first Commander was Dr. J. N. Elder who took office in 1920. The Post also formed an American Legion Auxiliary Unit for veterans’ spouses, with Mrs. Julia Bryant elected as president. Post 80 members organized Decoration Day (now known as Memorial Day) and Armistice Day (now known as Veterans Day) observances and were actively and materially involved in helping former service members in “getting their feet back on the ground” and finding jobs after military service. The Post took great pride in the fact that its members erected and formally unveiled the first monument in Hopewell to those who made the supreme sacrifice in the Great War. The monument, which was dedicated on Decoration Day in 1921, still stands today in Washington Circle on 15th Street; is still sometimes used in veteran-related ceremonies, and is jointly maintained by American Legion Hopewell Memorial Post 146 and Veterans of Foreign Wars Jacob J. Pearson Post 637.
Unfortunately, historical records concerning Post 80 disappear after 1955, the year in which the Post helped organize the biggest Decoration Day, by then known as Memorial Day, parade ever seen in Hopewell. After that, Post 80 disappears from the historical record. Perhaps membership dwindled and eventually, the Post 80 charter was retired.
A new American Legion Post, Post 146, was established in Hopewell in 1975. Among its founding members were John Head, Founding Commander, and Samuel Campbell, now a retired Chief Judge from Virginia’s 6th Judicial Circuit Court; and still an active member.
After years of meeting in various member’s homes, Searl Stover (Post Commander in 1986) moved meetings to his house and then, in 1987 to a rented storefront of an active Kippax Street warehouse. But having an official address did not provide all the amenities necessary to support an active Post. Members brought their own chairs to meetings until Commander Stover and Dwight Faughn managed to secure a salvage group of chairs from Fort Lee, which members purchased and then donated to the Post.
Despite such challenges, the Post sponsored a variety of programs including the Post 146 Eagles, a team which participated in the American Legion Baseball League. Members raised money through fishing tournaments, Brunswick Stew sales and immensely popular barbeque sales all through the 1990s. Incidentally, the barbeque sales were held at a Pilot gas station with Legionnaires George Simmons and Hugh Brown alternately appearing dressed as “Uncle Sam”.
By 2000, the Kippax Street building was too small and maintenance became a continuing problem. When a property at 217 East City Point Road became available, members seized the opportunity. Lacking funds to re-model the former warehouse, members appealed to the Hopewell business community and were rewarded with paint, flooring tiles, and even flag poles contributed by Sherwin Williams, Specified Interior Products, and Honeywell, respectively.
Since relocating nearly 20 years ago, membership has increased; donations to the VA Hospital and Sitter Barfoot Veterans Care Center, Hopewell school programs and scholarships; and city police, firefighter and sheriff organizations annually top the $40,000-dollar mark. The Post has an affiliated American Legion Auxiliary Unit, Sons of the American Legion Squadron and American Legion Riders Chapter.