LaBelle's First American Legion
There was no American Legion Post in LaBelle, which was the county seat of Hendry County, Florida, during the early days of World War II. Prior World War II in the Early days of LaBelle an earlier post, named after Gerald Crawford Crews, the first doughboy from what was then known as Eastern Lee County. Gerald Crawford Crews was the first Eastern Lee County Veteran to die in World War I. Unfortunately this Post had ceased to exist in the late 1920's when LaBelle was experiencing the shock of a collapsing economy known as the "Florida Boom".
LaBelle's first American Legion Post may well have been organized by local veterans wanting an organization that would embrace the hopes and aspirations of the returning veterans, helping them prepare for a new and better world, hopefully putting to rest their fears of the growing social and economic unrest both at home and abroad. Many localities had already organized American Legion Posts and joined with other local posts in forming Department or state organizations prior to that first National Convention of The American Legion.
The true story of The Gerald Crawford Crews Post may never be uncovered as no member of LaBelle's first American Legion Post is known to be living, and the Department of Florida records on those early Post no longer exist. American Legion Posts are recorded and kept by post number not by the Post's name or location.
Dana-Howard-Weekley Post 130
Jennings D. McLeod, a veteran of the Spanish American War, the Boxer Rebellion in China and World War I, had been a Legionnaire prior to moving to LaBelle in the late 1930's. He sensed a need for an American Legion Post in LaBelle as a voice not only for the area's World War I veterans but also for the re?turning World War II servicemen, an organization that would embody those tents set forth in the Preamble to the Constitution of The American Legion. "Mr. Mack", as Jennings D. McLeod was affectionately known, got other interested World War I veterans and a few recently returned World War II GI's to join him in starting a new American Legion Post in LaBelle. American Legion Post 130 was organized on 13 July 1944 with "Mr. Mack" as first Commander. It was decided to name the new Post Dana-Howard-Weekley in honor of the first three western Hendry County men to die in service to their country, during World War II.
The first year, the new post had a membership of 53, no mere feat for a community of less than 1,000 total population.
The American Legion History
This first post was organized, no doubt, with the same goals in mind that prompted Theodore Roosevelt, Jr., George A. White, Franklin D'Olier and Eric Fisher Wood to discuss and propose an organization of American Veterans of the World War at that fateful dinner in Paris, France, on 16 February 1919 that preceded the Paris Caucus of 15-17 March 1919, the recognized birth of The American Legion.
The Paris Caucus of members of the AEF selected the name "American Legion", suggested by Maurice K. Gordon, for the nascent Veterans organization. This name was formally adopted at the St. Louis, Missouri, Caucus May 1919 which also set Minneapolis, Minnesota, as the site of the first National Convention to be held on November 11, 1919 the anniversary date of the Armistice.
At that first National Convention of The American Legion in Minneapolis which was held from November 10th through the12th in the year 1919 where Franklin D'Olier was elected National Commander along with Lemuel Bolles as first National Adjutant. By this time there was already an American Legion in Florida where Albert H. Blanding, was elected as first Department Commander and Sumter L. Lowery, as first Department Adjutant.
Reference Source: Dana-Howard-Weekley American Legion Historian Book 1989