The History and Restoration of American Legion Post 215’s Headquarters

Apr 05, 2024 at 01:50 pm by RMGadmin

Tuskegee Airman Thomas Patton.
Surviving brothers of PFC Robert Carothers.
Attic of American Legion Post 215 Shows frame and windows of original house.

Fighting Two Battles

By Katie Shands

The spartan, cinder-block building in Franklin’s Hard Bargain neighborhood has seen better days. Large cracks zig-zag between the concrete bricks, which cover the wooden frame of a circa-1910 house. The roof is begging to be replaced, and the gutters do little to funnel the rain away from the structure. Water, squirrels, and birds have found their way into the attic, creating even more damage. One would never guess this time-worn building holds some of Williamson County’s most important stories. Indeed, it’s the headquarters of the American Legion Post 215, the meeting place of our county’s unsung heroes, our African-American veterans.
From the Revolution to the Iraq War, African Americans have proudly fought in every conflict in our country’s history. Here in Williamson County, a host of heroes have embodied that legacy of sacrifice and bravery. Throughout the Civil War, more than 300 formerly enslaved men in the county enlisted in the Union Army. In 1881, First Sergeant George Jordan, a Buffalo soldier and formerly enslaved man who served during the Indian Wars, became Williamson County’s sole Medal of Honor recipient. During World War II, Tuskegee Airman Captain Thomas Patton was Franklin’s first African-American fighter pilot.
Many African-American families in this area have a rich history of military service. In the Carothers family, a total of five brothers served in uniform. One of those men, Private First Class Richard Lee Carothers, was killed in action while in Vietnam. He was posthumously awarded a Purple Heart and Bronze Star for his heroism, and a bridge on Highway 96 near Clovercroft Road was named in his honor. Another Carothers brother James served in the Marines and was wounded by a grenade in Vietnam. Today, he is an active member of Post 215.
The Lane family is another example of exemplary military service in this area. Seven brothers enlisted in the armed forces, including Donnell Lane who served in the United States Army. Today, Lane continues to serve his country by working on behalf of veterans as First Vice Commander of Post 215.
Tragically, these sacrifices and acts of valor were often tempered by prejudice on the home front. For example, after fighting in World War II, Staff Sergeant William F. Scruggs and his fellow African-American servicemen returned to segregated Franklin only to be banned from joining the local American Legion. In 1946, Scruggs founded the Brooks Fleming, Jr. Post 215 for African-American veterans. The group met in various places around Franklin until 1952 when Scruggs and two other World War II veterans, Robert German and the aforementioned Thomas Patton, purchased their current headquarters – the cinder-block-encased house in Hard Bargain.
Not only is this building a meeting place for our veterans, it is one of the few remaining affordable community centers in Williamson County. From birthday parties and baby showers to baptisms and wedding receptions, numerous events are held here throughout the year. It’s also the site of the African-American Heritage Society’s monthly “Porch Talks.” Truly, this building is the heartbeat of the Hard Bargain neighborhood.
As time has passed, members have done their best to maintain the property, patching holes and making necessary repairs, but even so, the building stands in great need of renovations. Post 215 has launched a fundraiser with a goal of $500,000 to revitalize their headquarters and create an endowment to safeguard the post in perpetuity. Plans for the property include a new roof, interior renovations, a paved parking lot, and an outdoor kitchen for Post 215’s famous fish fries. Vietnam War veteran and campaign chair Donnell Lane acknowledges the urgency of this endeavor: “The old war horse of a post is tired. As the custodians of this legacy, we recognize the need to breathe new life into our cherished institution and restore its glory.”
For veteran and American Legion historian Harvey Chrisman, the project honors the post’s founder, William Scruggs. Not only was he a veteran, Scruggs served as a reverend and civil rights leader who marched with Martin Luther King, Jr. and chaired the Civil Rights Committee for desegregation of schools in Franklin. Scruggs also helped build the Advanced Flying School where the famed Tuskegee Airmen trained. “The importance for me is to carry on the legacy that Elder William Scruggs started,” Chrisman says. “He charged us to carry on.”
To that end, the members will create a museum within their headquarters to preserve the history of our African-American veterans in a centralized location. Just as the historic bones of the building have been concreted over and mostly forgotten, so many of these men and women’s stories have been buried beneath the weight of racism. These are stories of tremendous sacrifice made in the name of freedom, a freedom that was often threatened and denied in civilian life. These are stories largely overlooked by the record books. These are stories that need to be told. The museum will serve as a mouthpiece for those silenced voices through interactive and interpretive displays.
Bob Ravener, a U.S. Navy veteran, American Legion member and project organizer, further elaborates on the importance of sharing the narratives of African-American veterans. “This is a story of perseverance, tenacity, and belief in the ideal of the country. We’re trying to tell that story and expand that story for others to learn, grow, and develop for the future generations.”
Though the post’s headquarters itself holds historic significance, it’s the stories of the individuals it serves that makes it such a special place. This renovation is about more than brick and mortar; it’s about flesh and blood, service and sacrifice. To be part of this important preservation project, you can make a tax-deductible donation payable to Franklin’s Charge with “American Legion Post 215” specified in the memo line and mailed to P.O. Box 874, Franklin, TN, 37065. Donations can also be made online at