The history of Ellig-Stoufer Post 31 began with the issuance of a provisional charter during July of 1919. The Post was organized in the Sebastian County Court House by a group of WWI Veterans just two months after Arkansas became the first American Legion Department to be incorporated on May 12, 1919. Wendel Archibald Robertson represented Fort Smith and Arkansas at the Saint Louis Caucus and later served as Post 31 Commander. Wendel was a WWI pursuit pilot and Ace with 7 victories, He was a Yale graduate and a prominent Fort Smith businessman. During WWII, founder Robertson served in the Air Corps as a Colonel.
Fort Smith attorney Vincent Miles served as the first commander of the Post originally named in honor of Victor Ellig (1888-1918), the first Fort Smith soldier killed in action during World War I. After World War II, the name of Post 31 was changed to Ellig-Stoufer in honor of Raymond Stoufer (1913-1943), the first airman killed in action during that war.
Post 31’s first commander, Vincent Morgan Miles later became Department Commander of the American Legion in Arkansas. He was a founder and original member of The Social Security Board, a Regional Adviser in the Public Works Administration, Solicitor of the Post Office, and member of the National Resources Board in the Roosevelt Administration.
Leigh Kelly was the second commander and served concurrently as Department Commander. Commander Kelly later became owner of the Fort Smith Aircraft Company and the city's first airport named Alexander Field. Kelly was later one of the three members of the Fort Smith Airport Commission that purchased the land where the present Fort Smith Regional Airport is located.
Commanders Miles and Kelley were the first in a long line of distinguished Post Commanders which included Doctors William Brooksher and D. W. Goldstien: Mayors James K. Jordon, Bill Vines and Keith Green; Judges Thomas Harper, Martin Green, and David Ford; County Judges John Brizzolara, Ben Geren and Bud Harper; Lieutenant Governor and Medal of Honor recipient Maurice "Footsie" Britt; Fort Chaffee Post Commanders Walter Burk and Gordon McQuain, Sr; U.S. Marshall J. Johnson Ehing; State Senator Denny Altes and State Representative Johnny Boatright.
Post 31 was instrumental in sponsoring the first Arkansas-Oklahoma Rodeo ever held in Fort Smith. The Post laid the ground work for the Lewis Tilles Park. The park was the first home for the WWI Doughboy Statue.
After the statue was damaged by vandals, Legionnaires had it restored and moved to a place of prominence in front of the Post.
Post 31 reached national and historic prominence during the first decade of the second millennium as the Post that sponsored more boys to attend American Legion Boys State than any other American Legion Post in the World.
2004-2005 Post 31 Commander Gene McVay and the post sponsored Fort Smith's first Veterans' Fair in the Rotunda of the Fort Smith Convention Center.
Participants included, The US Department of Veterans Affairs, The Arkansas Department of Veterans Affairs, The Small Business Administration, Employment Security, The National Cemetery, County Veteran Service Officers, 188th Fighter Wing Personnel, The University of Arkansas at Fort Smith, Webster University, Active military and National Guard Recruiters, The American Legion and Auxiliary, Disabled American Veterans, Vietnam Veterans of America, and The Veterans of Foreign Wars.
The Post hosted a Town Hall Meeting with the Under Secretary of the Veterans Administration, Jack Nicholson. Secretary Nicholson later stepped down as his brother Jim was confirmed as Secretary of The VA replacing Secretary Principi.
The Post sent 53 boys to Arkansas Boy's State.
Distinguished Membership Dinner speakers during the year included The Adjutant General of Arkansas, The Fort Smith Mayor, The Vice Chancellor of UA Fort Smith, Entertainment Fort Smith Magazine Executive Editor Linda Seabold, and State Senator Denny Altes.
Post 31 hosted refreshments in the Convention Center Rotunda following Memorial Day Services at the National Cemetery. Department Commander Charlie Wentworth visited the Post on two occasions and was honored by Mayor Baker.
The leading candidate for National Commander, Tom Bock had lunch with members of the Post and was honored with presentations and proclamations from Mayor Ray Baker.
Post 31 hosted the Department Conference during July 2004 with The National Adjutant as special guest. The Post provided a free steak dinner for delegates and provided commercial bus service to and from the Post and convention hotel.
Post 31 ended the membership year as the second largest post in Arkansas with 1,371 members.
- History provided by Gene McVay, Post Historian