Local man first black to win top state American Legion spot|[7/24/05]

Published 12:00 am Monday, July 25, 2005

A 23-year member of the American Legion Tyner-Ford Post 213 and native son of Vicksburg has been elected department commander for the state of Mississippi. He is the first African-American to win the post.

Charles Scott, 76, a retired Army veteran with 32 years of service including tours of duty in Korea and Vietnam, has held numerous positions with Tyner-Ford Post 213, most recently area vice commander for central Mississippi.

“I had a good feeling about it from the bigger posts in Jackson and Tupelo. That’s why I was so sure I could win it,” said Scott.

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Scott garnered 356 votes to 28 for his competitor, James Long of Post 139 in Bay St. Louis.

Well-liked by most who meet him, those who have known Scott attested to his being up for the job.

“He has always been concerned with the concerns of veterans and their families,” said Louis Sullivan Sr., second vice commander with Tyner-Ford Post 213.

“(Scott) has been willing to give up his time to help families who aren’t Legionnaires,” Sullivan said.

Don Cabrol, area vice commander for northern Mississippi and director for Glen Crosby Post 165 in Cleveland, has known Scott for 12 years through the American Legion.

“I think he’ll be a good Legionnaire. It is an honor and experience for him,” Cabrol said.

With Scott being the first African-American and only the second black Legionnaire to try for the post since the 1980s, his election has special significance.

“They weren’t ready for that before this” Sullivan said.

“Historically, it has been a predominantly white position, but I think it’s great. Diversity is important to us,” said Wade Habshey, a spokesman with American Legion national headquarters in Indianapolis.

Scott was born in Vicksburg and is the sixth of nine children by Orcar and Evelyn Scott. He attended Magnolia High School on Bowman Street.

He served in Korea with the 96th Artillery Field as a crewman and in Vietnam with the 101st Airborne Division. He retired from the Army in 1983. Among his decorations are the Bronze Star and an Army Commendation medal.

Since 1983, Scott has assisted in many youth-related Legion activities, including serving as vice chairman of the Americanism Council.

He has been married to his wife, the former Lillie Smith, for 19 years and is a member of Mount Heroden Baptist Church at 1117 Clay St.

“It’s wonderful. I’ll travel with him as much as I can,” said Lillie Scott.

As department commander, Scott will oversee 18,000 members in 197 posts in Mississippi.

Department commanders in the American Legion serve one-year terms for the state in which they are elected. Among their usual activities are traveling to Washington, D.C., to talk to senators about keeping veterans benefits and compensation intact.

Scott’s first trip as department commander will be to the American Legion national convention in Hawaii Aug. 19-25.