Riggs-Hamilton American Legion Post 20

Riggs-Hamilton American Legion Post 20, located at 215 North Denver Avenue in Russellville (Pope County), is a Rustic-style structure erected in 1936 with assistance from the Civil Works Administration (CWA) and the Works Progress Administration (WPA), a pair of Depression-era federal relief programs. It was listed on the National Register of Historic Places on August 15, 1994.

In January 1919, veterans in Russellville organized an Army-Navy Club to serve as a civic organization for the veterans and their families, with members having to have received honorable discharges from the Army, Navy, or Marine Corps after serving overseas or on home guard duty and with honorary membership open to relatives of men who died in service. Robert A. Ragsdale, who came up with the original idea, was elected president, with Wallace Cowan serving as secretary.

In July, club members voted to join the American Legion, a national veterans’ organization, and they named their new post in honor of Samuel L. Riggs of Russellville and Ed Hamilton of Hector (Pope County); both were killed in France during World War I.

The Army-Navy Club met at Russellville’s Ferguson Building, but Riggs-Hamilton Post 20 wanted its own building. Mr. and Mrs. A. J. Mathews donated a lot for a legion hut in honor of relatives who had served during the war. The post initially sought funding of around $5,700 from the Civil Works Administration in 1934, but only $682.20 of that was spent on Pope County CWA Project 58-60-T2. The agency reported “sand and gravel placed on ground. Building stone quarried and placed on ground,” and concluded: “Building was not started. This would be a good project to continue if materials could be furnished.”

Undaunted, the Legionnaires successfully turned to another federal agency, the WPA, and $4,188.70 was appropriated for Project 4-58-G-25 to “complete Russellville Legion Hut.” The resulting building was a handsome rectangular, stone-veneered structure with twin entrances, one featuring a bronze plaque with the American Legion’s logo and the other marked with the American Legion Ladies Auxiliary crest. A cornerstone reads, “Riggs-Hamilton, Post No. 20, American Legion, Erected 1934,” but the WPA plaque gives the year 1936, appropriately marking both the beginning and the end of the project.

Riggs-Hamilton American Legion Post 20 was dedicated on July 31, 1936, at a ceremony featuring keynote speaker Senator Joseph T. Robinson. The festivities began with a banquet for Robinson at Arkansas Polytechnic College (which later became Arkansas Tech University) before moving to the legion hut for a concert by the Russellville High School Band and the Drum and Bugle Corps of Little Rock’s M. M. Eberts American Legion Post. Other speakers included state Legion commander Jerome Thompson and Charles Q. Kelly, a national committeeman of the Legion.

Riggs-Hamilton American Legion Post 20 continues to serve Russellville’s veterans in the twenty-first century.

For additional information:
Civil Works Administration Project Folders, Pope-Pulaski. Arkansas State Archives, Little Rock, Arkansas.

Ferguson, Todd L. “Riggs-Hamilton American Legion #20.” National Register of Historic Places registration form, on file at Arkansas Historic Preservation Program, Little Rock, Arkansas. Online at www.arkansaspreservation.com/National-Register-Listings/PDF/PP0188.nr.pdf (accessed February 4, 2020).

“Russellville Will Entertain Senator Robinson Friday.” Arkansas Gazette, July 28, 1936, p. 2.

WPA Central Office Files, 1935–1937. Arkansas State Archives, Little Rock, Arkansas.

Mark K. Christ
Central Arkansas Library System

Last Updated: 02/04/2020