After World War I, soldiers everywhere were craving the social connections they established fighting the war. When the organization started in 1919, Omaha’s African American veterans launched their own chapter. This is a history of North Omaha’s American Legion Theodore Roosevelt Post #30.
World War I hit home in Omaha’s Black community in 1917 when the United States joined the war in Europe. More than 800 African American soldiers from Omaha served in the U.S. Army 92nd Infantry Division, a segregated unit, while others served in the 93rd Infantry Division. Parts of the 92nd, including soldiers and officers from Omaha, served under and alongside the French Army after both the main American Expeditionary Force and the British Expeditionary Force refused to have Black soldiers serve in combat under them. The 93rd was never fully formed except for infantry units, which fought under French command.
More than 800 African Americans from Omaha joined the US Army when the United States joined the Great War in 1917. Their contributions were myriad but limited by segregation within the ranks. When they came home, these men wanted the camaraderie they experienced in the war. The American Legion was started in 1919 to serve that function.
These World War I veterans were all involved in founding Post #30. From left are Dr. W.W. Peebles, Harrison J. Pinkett, and Dr. Craig Morris.
Attorney Harrison Pinkett was credited as founder of the post, with founding leadership from Dr. W.W. Peebles, Dr. Craig Morris, Edward Turner, Dr. Amos B. Madison, and others. Formally organized on April 26, 1919, the following year the officers included Pinkett as Commander, and; Andrew T. Reed as Adjutant. Drs. Madison and Peebles led it the following years afterward.
The four pillars of the American Legion are:
- Mentoring youth and sponsorship of wholesome programs in the community;
- Advocating patriotism and honor;
- Promoting strong national security, and;
- Continued devotion to our fellow service members and veterans.
The American Legion Baseball program was wildly popular. Post 30 started a team early and maintained it for several years. In the 1920s, the post started giving political endorsements.
It was 1933 when American Legion Theodore Roosevelt Post #30 purchased their permanent home at North 24th and Parker Street. It was a two-story building that formerly housed a grocery store. In addition to having their hall there, the American Legion had an open bar that operated there for decades, as well as slot machines. From the 1930s into the 1950s, Post #30 sponsored a public health clinic in its building on 24th Street, too.
World War II
Starting right before World War II the post surged in popularity again. After three years of consecutive record-setting membership drives, they were permanently awarded a regional trophy for their success. In 1943, the post hosted the annual National American Legion Convention in Omaha, including several activities at their post building.
Among programs they hosted starting in the 1940s was the Junior Auxiliary, where young women learned “Americanism, flag etiquette, patriotic songs, creeds” and “many other personal and social skills.” The post also hosted community donation drives, regular meals at their facilities for veterans, and special holiday meals and events. The post’s drill team was also known throughout the city for its powerful performances.
Longtime Post Commander Charles Williamson moved to Omaha in 1929. He served in World War I, and was committed to making a future for himself. Playing for the legendary W.C. Handy, father of the blues, Williamson was a career musician until 1942 when an illness forced him to retire early. After he was first installed as commander of American Legion Post 30 in 1945, Williamson was re-selected for the role in 1963 and stayed in that position until he died in 1978. He was buried in Benson’s Mt. Hope Cemetery.
Starting in 1978, the Legionnaires of Post #30 hosted an annual Commander and Presidents Ball. Held at the hall on North 33rd, the formal event featured an annual theme, lavish decorations, and live music. Hundreds would attend throughout the evening, and the event was held into the 1990s.
In April 1980, Post Commander Albert Tibbs led the organization to rename itself in memory of longtime Post Commander Charles Williamson, and it was then called the Charles J. Williamson Post 30. That same year, the post officially moved from their old home at North 24th and Parker with a march to their new facility at 1817 North 33rd Street.
For many years starting in 1996, the post sponsored an annual Veterans Day celebration. The event often included a march from Adams Park to the building on North 33rd Street, as well as a breakfast, ceremony, lunch buffet, and more.
The American Legion was a sponsor of several Juneteenth celebrations around the turn of the millennium. The last update on the post was printed in the Omaha Star in 2009, and in 2010 the Omaha World-Herald referred to the post as “now-defunct.”
Do you have memories or info about the Charles Williamson American Legion Post 30? Please share them in the comments!
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- History of Social Clubs in North Omaha
- History of North 24th Street
- History of Community Leaders in North Omaha
- Post 30 webpage on the official American Legion website