Colonel E. Lester Jones (left) and
Honorable J. D. Craig.
Referring to the letter which appeared in
your issue of August 30 from Mr. Charles Tittman, past commander
of Augustus Post, No. 18, District of Columbia Department, American
Legion, Washington, Stating that he recalls the American Legion
was founded in February or March, 1919 in the Cosmos Club; and
the letter in your issue of September 8 from Mr. George H. Maines,
Washington, stating that American Legion was officially formed
by Lieut. Col. Theodore Roosevelt, Mr. Tittman’s recollection
is correct. The founder of the American Legion was the late Col.
Ernest Lester Jones, who served in the First Army Air Service
overseas during World War I, and later became the director of
the U. S. Coast and Geodetic Survey.
was Col. Jones’ idea that memories of the comradeship
and sacrifices made by those who participated in World
War I should be perpetuated through a national veterans
organization, and he called a small group together in
the cosmos Club on February 5, 1919, and plans were discussed.
A call was sent out on February 23, 1919, for a caucus
to be held in the Cosmos Club, of which Col. Jones was
an active member, and on March 7, 1919, a caucus was held
in the assembly hall of the Cosmos Club with 375 veterans
responding and participating in the activities of the
was decided at this caucus not to form any permanent organization
because a large number of veterans were still overseas,
but to organize the first unit and elect officers, which
was done. Col. Jones was unanimously elected the first
commander of the unit, which was named “General
Pershing Post, No. 1,” in honor of his close friend,
Gen. John J. Pershing, with whom he served overseas. At
the request of the unit, Col. Jones sent the following
telegram next day to Gen. Pershing:
have the honor to inform you that on March 7 the first
veteran post of the World War was organized in the Nation’s
Capital, which was unanimously named General Pershing
Post, No. 1, Delegates were named to confer with representatives
from our forces overseas, looking toward early formation
of national organization.
“Colonel, Air Service.”
March 15, 1919, eight days after the caucus at the Cosmos
Club, a representative group of officers and men who were
still overseas held a caucus in Paris, France, and the
name “American Legion” was tentatively adopted.
committee representing the overseas veterans came to the
United States and joined a like committee and plans were
formulated for holding a caucus in St. Louis, Mo., on
May 8, 9 and 10, 1919.
E. Lester Jones headed the first delegation which attended
the St. Louis caucus.
was adopted, among other things at the St. Louis caucus,
the “preamble” to the constitution of the
American Legion which has made that organization famous
the world over. The groundwork for this preamble was drafted
by Col. Jones, chairman of the District delegation, and
was formally presented by the delegation to the caucus.
A comparison of his original manuscript with the present
preamble shows how his original ideas were embodied in
the preamble as finally adopted. Also at the St. Louis
caucus authority was granted the District to form a department,
and on May 19, 1919, at a largely attended meeting in
Central High School, Col. Jones was unanimously elected
the first department commander in the history of the American
Legion. George Washington Post holds “Charter No.
1" in the national organization and the Department
of the District of Columbia holds “Department Charter
a memorial to the late Col. E. Lester Jones, George Washington
Post, No. 1, American Legion, formally presented a bronze
plaque to the U. S. Coast and Geodetic Survey in January,
1940. The presentation was made by the late Maj. Wallace
Streator. It was the wish of George Washington Post, No.
1, that this plaque be installed or unveiled in the U.
S. Coast and Geodetic Survey tender E. Lester Jones with
appropriate ceremonies and with representatives of a Seattle
(Wash.) American Legion post in attendance. Present on
the occasion were various members of George Washington
Post, No. 1, Miss Cecil Lester Jones, daughter of the
late Col. Jones; Col. J. M. Johnson, and several Coast
and Geodetic Survey officers on duty in the Washington
plaque was installed in the Wardroom of the tender E. Lester
Jones with appropriate ceremonies and with representatives
of a Seattle American Legion Post participating.