Before the Civil Rights Act of 1964 was brought into law, there stood a one-story, wooden barracks building that was towed from Fort Hood to Zephyr Road in Killeen to establish what was initially referred to as “The Colored Veterans of Foreign Wars Post.”
When the post was chartered on May 24, 1959, it was officially named the VFW Benjamin O. Davis Post 9191 after the first African American general officer in the U.S. Army and within the Armed Forces.
To honor the proud heritage of the post, hundreds of people attended the Benjamin O. Davis VFW Post 9191 60th Anniversary Banquet June 1 at Fort Hood.
“Tonight is a night to show appreciation for the history of Post 9191,” said Kevin Williams, the post’s senior vice commander. “This is the first VFW that allowed African Americans to become members.”
The event included a toast to the fallen comrades and a live performance of the National Anthem sung by Edwina Evans, the treasurer for the Auxiliary of Post 9191.
“It was an honor and a privilege to be a part of such an auspicious occasion,” Evans said. “I was humbled to be asked to perform at the banquet. It is not every day that you are asked to sing the National Anthem. Years ago, this would have not happened. As we have moved into modern-day times, it is more common to see African Americans performing in the public eye.”
And in keeping with the banquet’s theme of “Remembering Our Past, Celebrating the Present and Embracing the Future of 60 years of service to our veterans, service members and community,” guest speaker Army Command Sgt. Maj. Michael Crosby, the command sergeant major for U.S. Army Futures Command, gave a special message to attendees.
“In 1959, the members here consisted primarily of veterans from World War II and the Korean War. The world was a different place sixty years ago, in many ways,” Crosby said. “The warfare that those VFW members experienced was against capable and well-equipped adversaries such as Nazi Germany, the Japanese Empire, and well equipped competitors such as China and Russia.”
During the banquet, attendees had the chance to understand the history of the post’s namesake — Army Brig. Gen. Benjamin O. Davis Sr., through a multimedia presentation and programs.
Davis was born in Washington, D.C., on July 1, 1877. He entered the military service July 13, 1898, during the War with Spain as a temporary first lieutenant of the 8th United States Volunteer Infantry. He was mustered out on March 6, 1899, and on June 18, 1899, he enlisted as a private in Troop I, 9th Cavalry, of the regular Army. Then he served as corporal and squadron sergeant major, and on Feb. 2, 1901, he was commissioned a second lieutenant of Cavalry in the regular Army.
He was promoted to first lieutenant on March 30, 1905; to captain on Dec. 24, 1915; to major (temporary) on Aug.5, 1917; and to lieutenant colonel (temporary) on May 1, 1918. He reverted to his permanent rank of captain Oct. 14, 1919, and was promoted to lieutenant colonel on July 1, 1920; to colonel on Feb. 18, 1930; to brigadier general (temporary) on Oct. 25, 1940. He was retired on July 31, 1941, and recalled to active duty with the rank of brigadier general the following day.
Texas leaders recognized the post’s rich history and the post was presented a Congressional Recognition Certificate during the banquet.
“This is a certificate of special, congressional recognition,” said U.S. Rep. John Carter, R-Round Rock. “Texas VFW Post 9191, congratulations on achieving your 60th year anniversary. Thank you for your dedicated service and commitment to our veterans, communities and active-duty service members.”
Army Chief Warrant Officer 5 and post commander Carlo Davis said he was humbled to receive the congressional proclamation.
“It was a humbling experience to receive the congressional proclamation from Congressman Carter,” Davis said. “The comrades — old and new — have shed a lot of blood, sweat and tears to keep our post operational and it just felt good to receive that public recognition. It’s been an honor and privilege to serve as the commander of this historic post. I’m very proud of the hard work and dedication of our comrades and Auxiliary members. One Team, Ready & Forward!”
To date, the VFW is the nation’s largest and oldest veterans’ group in Texas and the United States — an organization of 1.2 million veterans who have served overseas in war zones or areas demanding arduous duty.
In addition, VFW members spend time serving the community.
“The VFW Post 9191 works closely with the Killeen Police Department,” said KPD Chief Charles Kimble. “We are proud of the post’s history.”
Crosby echoed Kimble’s sentiments.
“Through outreach efforts like Patriot’s Pen and awards for teachers, EMT’s, police and firefighters, the Gen. Benjamin Davis chapter ensures that the bond between Central Texas and its veterans remains strong,” Crosby said. “For generations of veterans themselves, the VFW has provided assistance, been our champions on the Hill and most important of all — is the fellowship. The VFW preserves the unique bond that exists in uniform and enables veterans to socialize and contribute alongside those who share the same formative experiences in the military.”
As the evening came to a close, guests took a moment to reflect.
“The banquet shows the pride and comradeship the members of the post have with one another,” said Inge Conley, Department of Texas VFW state commander. “This was a time for them to celebrate their accomplishments. The event was a wonderful thing they have done.”