ROGERSVILLE — Congressman Phil Roe will be the keynote speaker when Rogersville's American Legion Post 21 hosts its 100th Anniversary Celebration Dinner on Nov. 8, the Friday before Veterans Day.
Post 21 received its charter at Pressmen’s Home on Sept. 9, 1919, with 15 original members and at one time was Tennessee's largest rural post with more than 1,500 members in the late 1960s and early 1970s.
In 2019 there were only 268 members, but you don't have to be a member or a veteran to help support and celebrate Post 21's centennial.
The public is encouraged to attend and celebrate this milestone. Tickets are currently on sale for $15 each, although sponsorship deals are also being offered that include ticket packages.
The menu will include pulled pork barbecue, fried chicken, mashed potatoes, green beans, desserts and soft drinks.
Aside from Roe, other speakers during the event will include former Congressman Bill Jenkins and Post 21 Commander Dennis Elkins. State Rep. Gary Hicks and Sen. Frank Nicely are also expected to attend.
Elkins told the Times News that the centennial celebration was originally going to take place on or around the actual Sept. 9 anniversary date. But that was close to Post 21's annual POW/MIA recognition ceremony, and they also hadn't had time to raise enough money for both events.
It was decided that the best option was to hold the centennial dinner on Nov. 8, the Friday before Veterans Day.
The history of Post 21
Post 21 was chartered Sept. 9, 1919, at Pressmen’s Home. The first commander was Earl Clifton, and Post 21 originally had 15 members.
By 1925, the membership had grown to 116 and a new post home called “HUT” was dedicated.
Post 21 was known across Tennessee as the second American Legion “clubhouse” built in the state, and Hawkins County residents used that clubhouse for a variety of social functions.
After the end of WWII, Post 21's membership had swelled to 642, and in 1949 its current home was built on Main Street on the far eastern edge of Rogersville by the Hawkins County Commission.
Post 21’s high-water mark for membership was 1972 with 1,538, but as WWI, WWII, and Korean War veterans began to age and pass away, membership began to decline. It got as low as 215 in the mid-1980s and currently sits at 268.
Recruiting the next generation
Among the projects Post 21 has taken on are sending Hawkins County high school students to Boy’s State and Girl’s State; donating school supplies to area schools; donating time at nursing homes; presenting Rogersville's Memorial Day and Veterans Day ceremonies downtown; color guard and chaplain services for veteran funerals; participating in the Quilts of Valor program; and hosting special events such as the POW/MIA recognition and honoring local WWII vets.
But the core of the membership is getting older, and the next generation is needed to carry on the work.
For young veterans interested in learning more, Elkins noted that attending the Nov. 8 100th Anniversary Celebration would be a good opportunity to meet other members, ask questions and find out more about joining.
How to buy tickets
Tickets will be sold at the door assuming they aren't sold out in advance. The best way to ensure you get a ticket is to purchase one in advance by contacting Elkins at (423) 235-1165.
Social hour is at 6 p.m., followed by dinner and the program at 7 p.m.
The different levels of sponsorship available include: Platinum for $100, which includes six tickets, name in program, and logo on banner; Gold for $75, which includes four tickets, name in program, and logo on banner; Silver for $50, which includes two free tickets, name in program, and logo on banner; and Bronze for $25, which include business listed on banner and program.
Aside from the dinner and program, there will be a silent auction with approximately 100 items.