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A Brief History of the Tampa Chapter

 

The following is reprinted from the Florida Society Centennial Commemoration Book, published in 1996. Editing and additions have been made for clarity and accuracy.

 

The first incarnation of the Tampa Chapter was known as the William C. Sessions Chapter. In 1964, the Chapter President was Ernest L. Stewart. Vice Presidents were Charles J. Campbel and Wilson Baker. Secretary/Treasurer was Waler W. Lane, and the Chaplain was Dr. John D. Dickerson.

In 1965, Willard J. Staples was Secretary / Treasurer. In 1966 and 1967, Chapter officers including Chapter President Andrew P. Buford and Secretary/Treasurer James E. Washburn were installed by FLSSAR Presidents Major General Bickeford E. Sawyer and V. Winthrop O’Hara at the Benjamin Franklin birthday celebration dinner, which also served as the venue for the Douglas G. High Oratorical Contest. These contests were chaired by Austin R. Drew who, at the time, had risen to become the National Chairman of the Contest.

As of January 1, 1972, the Chapter had 27 members. For some time, only 5 or 6 members showed at meetings, which made it difficult to bring in prominent experts to give luncheon talks. A day came when the only one showed at a meeting was President Staples. Bill Staples (who had replaced the late Marion D. Worley as President), Austin Drew, Col. C. L. Hewitt, Jr., and James E. Washburn recommended that the Chapter disband. The Chapter formally disbanded as of December 31, 1972; there are no surviving minutes of meetings or other official records of the Chapter available at the local level. The treasury was forwarded to the State Society for use by some future effort to reestablish a Tampa Chapter.

Twelve years later on December 14 1984, three local men, assembled as a Target Cities Committee in preparation for a National meeting in the Tampa area, sent a letter to as many Tampa-area Compatriots as could be located. These men were Glenn A. Arter, Chairman, Ste. Petersburg, Robert L. Grover, Regional Vice President, and Belleair and Robert L. Baylies of Tampa. Robert Baylies is a direct descendant of General Lincoln, who received the sword at Yorktown at General George Washington’s insistence.

The letter announced a pre-organizational luncheon meeting for all prospective Charter members of the proposed new Tampa Chapter to be held on January 19, 1985 at the Admiral Benbow Inn in the Westshore area of Tampa.

On January 28, 1985 an application for charter was submitted to the Board of Managers of the FLSSAR by 16 compatriots who lived in or near Tampa for a Chapter to be “headquartered at Tampa.”

On the 2nd day of February, 1985, a charter was issued for a Tampa Chapter as signed by FLSSAR President Richard E. Friberg and Secretary Floyd D. May. On February 9, 1985, the Target Cities Committee sent a Special Notice to all Tampa area compatriots regarding the election of officers for the new Tampa Chapter. The election, held Saturday, February 23, 1985 (at the Admiral Benbow), found the following Compatriots placed as officers:

            Charting Officers

            President: Robert Baylies

            Vice President: James O. Smith, Jr.

            Secretary/Treasurer: M. Leo Elliott, III

            Registrar/Genealogist: Martin McKinnon

 

Honorary Escorts from the St. Petersburg Chapter, the Clearwater Chapter, and the Lakeland Chapter were present. National Trustee of the Florida SAR, Albert J. Twiggs, led the meeting in the Pledge of the SAR. Compatriot Richard H. Thompson, Jr. President General of the NSSAR (1981-1982) led the meeting in a memorial to Sumter Lowry and Compatriot Eugene McQuire, President General, NSSAR (1971-1972). The SAR Recessional was led by Carlton E. Fisher, Genealogist General, NSSAR (1979-1981).

The Constitution and By Laws of the Tampa Chapter were written and approved as of April 20, 1985.

The Tampa Chapter had fairly elaborate Tampa Awards and Installation Banquets for the first several years. These meetings were typically in the evening with wives invited. The Tampa Chapter was finally able to locate a regular meeting location where attendees could order off a menu or choose from a buffet, and yet our meetings would still have some measure of privacy and quiet in order to hear our speakers.

Over the years, the Tampa Chapter sponsored the following programs:

·         Douglas G. High Oratorical Contest with limited success because of lack of response from student in spite of vigorous efforts.

·         Eagle Scout Awards to a decreasing pool of Eagle Scouts each year – some 41 or so by 1995.

·         ROTC Awards to an ever increasing number of units. The program is now the subject of our April meeting and a highlight of our year.

·         Law Enforcement and Fire Safety Medal presentations

·         Gifts of genealogical books to the Tampa Public Library’s genealogical collection

·         Participation in naturalization ceremonies with by awarding US flags to new citizens

·         Formed a Color Guard which marches in parades and provides flags for events

·         Good Citizenship Awards to local elementary schools

·         The planting of a liberty tree

·         Sponsored a Poster Contest for elementary school children

 

With a membership of 48 Compatriots at the end of 2011, we have many dedicated members who continue to work hard for our Chapter. It is from this dedicated effort that the Tampa Chapter continues to be well respected within the SAR and the Tampa community.