The split-rail log cabin was built in 1933 for the Civilian Conservation Corps as a bunk house where the workers slept and ate when they weren’t clearing the land and building the picnic pavilions for Chastain Park in the midst of the Great Depression
The Waldo M. Slaton American Legion Post 140 was chartered in 1936 and in 1950 Fulton County deeded the log cabin and 2 acres to the post to be used as long as the post existed. The building is largely unchanged from the 1930s down to the refrigerator in the galley. The outside is painted a deep shade of green, inside are hardwood floors, heavy wooden roof beams and a large granite fireplace.
A few additions have been made over the years including a porch and a large deck that looks out on the park. Central to the post are the four pillars of the American Legion: national security, helping veterans, youth programs and patriotism.
Those too have remained unchanged since Post 140 Commander Charles Smith’s father, Spencer Smith, became a member of Post 140 following his service in the Korean War. Spencer Smith’s father, Dr. Lester R. Smith, was at the Paris Peace Conference in 1919 when the American Legion was founded.
A Riverwood High graduate, Charles served in the Marine Corps. He views the post as a home and a refuge, a kind of church. He is helping veterans returning from Iraq and Afghanistan find the same thing. The Buckhead post cannot be seen from Powers Ferry Road, even though that is the address.
Unlike other American Legion halls, it does not have a bar or food service. The result is something as unique as the building in which it is located, something Charles Smith calls the “esprit de corps,” a devotion to the four pillars built on true military-based camaraderie.
Post 140 has long been a second to home to the members of the Greatest Generation, those veterans of World War II like Frank Benson, who stormed the beaches of Normandy in 1944. The challenge is to continue to create that sense of place and purpose with the next generation.
While it is the Waldo M. Slaton American Legion Post, the actual hall is the Ryan P. Means American Legion Hall. Means, a Buckhead resident and Marist School graduate who served in the U.S. Army’s Special Forces following Sept. 11, 2001, tragically died at age 35 following surgery to remove a cancerous tumor after he was pulled out of Iraq.
The membership of Post 140 is about 180. It has been named a Post of Excellence for several years running and will most likely earn the honor this year as a result of a growing membership. That is a credit to the unique place the Waldo M. Slaton American Legion Post 140 holds in Buckhead and Sandy Springs.
Buckhead resident Thornton Kennedy is a sixth-generation Atlantan and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.