The History of Avery-Cuthbert American Legion Post 537
The American Legion and American Legion Auxiliary were both organized in the year 1919, formed as a Patriotic Veterans organizations focusing on service to Veterans, service members and communities. The Avery-Cuthbert American Legion Post 537 was named for Robert Herschel Avery and Benjamin Cuthbert Jr. both natives of Marietta, Ga both killed in World War II. In the United States of America under segregation all American Legion Posts were to remain separate but equal. During the segregated years of the military, especially after the World Wars, black veterans in the southern states were allowed to form and were granted charters in The American Legion with all the state and local rights and privileges. In the state of Georgia the American Legion was divided into three districts A, B and C, Avery-Cuthbert Post 537 was in district C. During these times The American Legion Posts for Black Veterans throughout the south were issued the 500 series numbers identifying these as Posts for black veterans, thankfully many of these distinguished number 500 series Posts still exist today carrying their legacy with honor.
In Marietta, Georgia during the 1940's era of Jim Crow laws and segregation, there were only two American Legion Posts for Veterans to belong to, Horace Orr Post #29 was considered as the "white post" and Avery-Cuthbert Post #537 was considered as the "black post" . The American Legion District meetings, Spring and Fall Conferences, and Conventions were all held separately. Delegates/Veterans belonging to the 500 Series Posts attending those meetings, conferences, and conventions would use High School & College auditoriums, or special event halls to hold these various meetings and would board in private homes instead of the local hotels and motels. Integration and the passing of Civil, Equal and Human Rights laws changed those dynamics over time. The rich history, distinctive journey, honorable service and sacrifices of the Veterans belonging to Avery-Cuthbert Post 537 is cherished by all in the city of Marietta and throughout Cobb County. Today, still serving God, Country and the Community, we continue to welcome everyone from all branches of the armed forces to Paul E. Kelly Jr. American Legion Post #296.
History American Legion Auxiliary Unit 537 & 296
Avery-Cuthbert Unit 537 operated for approximately three years as a "Widow Unit" meaning it was granted special permission from the Department of Georgia American Legion Auxiliary to continue operating without an active American Legion Post, as long as memberships and all obligations were met. Cheryl Long was the Auxiliary president during that time. Meetings were rotated within the membership homes on 4th Sunday Afternoons. A group of Veterans in Marietta started meeting and decided to reapply for their charter in the year of 1984. This was to be named Paul E. Kelly Jr. American Legion Post 296 Inc- after Cobb County resident Paul E. Kelly Jr. fallen soldier in United States Army killed in the Vietnam War. Our widow Unit 537 was asked to become a part of their Ladies Auxiliary Unit, it was voted on and the majority agreed, eventually causing a division within the Unit which led several ladies to join the Charles R. Milton American Legion Post 574 in Atlanta.
Our application was submitted to the Department Headquarters on January 15, 1985, credited and entered on February 25, 1985, Edwin Dyer was the Commander and Richard Ragland was the Post Adjutant. The following names became our charter members: Anna Johnson-President, Jeriene Bonner-Secretary, Cheryl Long-Treasurer others members are Rosa Scott, Geneva Carter, Bessie Wright, Frances Storey, Gloria Eppinger, Odene Williams, Edna Lockhart, Ruth Eppinger, Harriett Moody, Sharon Thomas, Gayle Ragland, Mary Dyer, Deane Bonner, Rosa Branch, Mary Lou Tillard, Harriett Peavy and Mildred McMickens. We were granted our permanent charter on March 7, 1985.
The start of Auxiliary Unit 296 brought new life, and rallied behind the Legionnaires of Post 296. Several programs were started, visits to the VA Hospitals, Poppy program and other committees were formed. As our membership grew we were awarded several certificates for the work we achieved. We also added the Junior Auxiliary and began to train them. Juniors had regular meetings, attended the VA Hospitals with the seniors, and attended the Rock Eagle Conferences and Girl's State. We all participated jointly with the Legionnaires in community appreciation cook outs, Easter Egg hunts, Youth Halloween celebrations, Thanksgiving Basket Give-a-ways, School Supply give a ways, and Sickle Cell Anemia Walk-a-thons & Healthfair the majority of these programs still exist today as joint ventures of the American Legion Family at Post 296.
Each new President and set of officers brought about changes that enhanced us to continue to go forward for The Good of the Legion. We continue to attend all the scheduled trainings, district meetings, fall and spring conferences and state conventions. Unit 296 proudly presents the following presidents: Anna Johnson, Rosa Scott, Frances “Missie” Cook, Nancy Longshore, Muriel Medlock, Alice Weaver, Cassandra Heath, Frances Muldrew, Cheryl Jackson, Betty Rosser, Cherryland Oby, Kathy Branscomb, Mildred McMickens, Ann Flanagan and currently Carla Thomas.
Members continue moving up the ladder with pride in the District, and State Levels of the Auxiliary as we continue to carry out our mission:
In the spirit of service not self, the mission of the American Legion Auxiliary is to support the American Legion and honor the sacrifice of those who serve by enhancing the lives of Veterans, military, and their families, both at home and abroad. For God and Country we advocate for veterans, educate our citizens, mentor youth, and promote patriotism, good citizenship, peace and security.