TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) — The American Legion Carmichael-Legree Post 167 has been without a physical post for more than 20 years and they need the community’s help to get back on their feet.
Located in Central Tampa, Post 167 was the first American Legion post for African-American veterans.
“In 1945-1946 we didn’t have a charter for Blacks for American Legion, so we had to fight,” Commander Arnold Watson said.
In order to exist, Post 5 out of Tampa, had to sponsor the post.
“During the time the American Legion wasn’t integrated,” Watson said.
With the help of Post 5, Post 167 was born in 1946. It became the first post for African-American Veterans in Florida. The organization allows fellow veterans to meet and fellowship, but most importantly, give back to the community.
“We give toys out to the youth during Christmas time, we also serve JROTC for Middleton,” Watson said.
More than 20 years ago, the city of Tampa pushed Post 167 out while expanding I-4. The city gave the group $300,000, but no building. Unfortunately, some of that money was mishandled. According to the former Commander of Post 167, Eunice Butts, some people said they were spending the money on the organization, but in actuality, they weren’t.
“It was not legit,” Butts said. ” We did go to a lawyer who took it pro bono but you can’t recoup the funds.”
They haven’t had a home for decades, but about five years ago, with new leadership in place, the group bought a property and a double-wide trailer. However, the trailer needs some serious work.
“We have to redo the electricity, the entire inside and outside has to be painted, we have to knock out all of these walls,” Watson said. “The problem is, we don’t have enough funds for that, we’re really short.”
They’re about $50,000 short. The group sent out letters asking for help. So far the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and City Councilman Luis Viera have stepped up.
“I’m trying to do everything I can to support them,” Viera said. “To support men and women who put everything on the line to support us and all they’re asking is for a little bit of help to recognize that so they can be together, we have to support them in that.”
Viera linked the group to Veterans Helping Veterans. He also agreed to bring this issue before the city to see if they can do anything to help. However, he also believes the community should help their neighbors.
“What I find unique about this post is many of these individuals are Vietnam and Vietnam Veterans and its an African-American majority post, so these are Americans who served their country at a time where their country didn’t stand for them and yet they wore that uniform,” Viera said. “Here they are today celebrating that service and we as good patriotic Americans need to do everything to support them in their endeavors.”
The post is located on E Martin Luther King Jr. St. at 53rd St. Watson visits the post twice a week on Tuesdays and Thursdays. If you are interested in dropping off a donation you can there. Or you can give them a call at (813) 453-6887.