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picture of colonel jones and j. d. craig
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.

It 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 meeting.

It 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:

“I 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.

plaque presented by george washington post in memory of col. ernest jones

“E. Lester Jones,
“Colonel, Air Service.”

On 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.

A 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.

Col. E. Lester Jones headed the first delegation which attended the St. Louis caucus.

There 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 No. 1.”

As 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 office.

The 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.

MARY ETHEL KNOTTS,
U. S. Coast and Geodetic Survey
Washington.

 


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