The history of James B. Whipple American Legion Post 86
The veterans of WWI living in Wilton applied for an American Legion charter April 10, 1920. This charter was approved and was dated Oct. 1, 1920. George D. Barringer was elected first commander, with 19 original members of the post. The post was named for Wilton’s first casualty of WWI, James Bennet Whipple.
The post was active the first few years, but became dormant for a few more. However, by 1937, the post was once again active. The members bought and paid for the property it now occupies at 112 Old Ridgefield Road, right next to the Village Market. (Just look for the Kick for Nick soccer ball collection net). The members hired local noted architect Nelson Breed, then bought and/or donated most of the materials to build the present building. It is little changed from its original design.
By the end of WWII, the post was beginning to be active in community affairs. Boy Scouts, baseball and youth programs were supported both by members and financially. The post began to sponsor local high school juniors to Boys State. This program is designed to introduce young men (and now the Legion Auxiliary sponsors Girls State with similar goals for young ladies) to the basic functions of a democratic government. They elect among themselves a “local and state” government, then spend a week “running” these governments by introducing, debating and passing (or not) laws. Notable attendees include President Bill Clinton; some more recognizable names who attended are Hines Ward (Super Bowl MVP), Lou Dobbs (TV), Scott Bakula (actor), Phil Jackson, Michael Jordan (basketball), Jon Bon Jovi, Bruce Springsteen, and Al Jarreau (music).
Today, Post 86 is commanded by Don Hazzard with 66 current members. In addition to participating in the Memorial Day and Veteran’s Day parades, we hold an annual flag retirement ceremony, in which we respectfully and properly burn unserviceable American flags that are collected year-round in our collection box in front of the post. We hold flag etiquette classes for both the Boy and Girl Scout troops (upon request); sponsor a scholarship for a high school senior going into a trade school; award a young man and young woman a Post 86 School Award at the Wilton High and Middlebrook schools; and support the Kick for Nick project, collecting balls at the post. Post 86 also sponsors three Legion baseball teams in town (including Weston boys, since Weston does not have a post). Post 86 has also supported the Homes for the Brave (a program for helping homeless male veterans get back their lives) and the very first program of its kind in Connecticut, Female Soldiers, Forgotten Heroes for homeless female veterans. This organization is based in the Nicholas A. Madaras Home, named for Wilton’s own Nick Madaras who was killed while serving in Iraq.
Post 86 welcomes all veterans to visit and attend a meeting. We meet the second Tuesday of the month at 7 p.m. at the post. Please visit our website for more information and to visit our photo gallery, post86legion.org.