Minneapolis American Legion Johnnie Baker Post 291 last week awarded a grant to support a McRae Park recreation program. The veteran's organization presented McRae Park with a check for $2,000 to enable the park program to purchase new football helmets for over forty youngsters who participate in the McRae Park football program. Minneapolis American Legion Johnnie Baker Post 291 last week awarded a grant to support a McRae Park recreation program. The veteran's organization presented McRae Park with a check for $2,000 to enable the park program to purchase new football helmets for over forty youngsters who participate in the McRae Park football program.
Back row (left to right): Londell Anderson, Jeff Hamilton, Kent Joyner, Marcus Nolen, Rob French, Kedrick Williams, Head Coach for McRae Park; Otis Jenkins, Commander Post 291; Bob Puckett, Second Vice Commander; Cornelius Davis, Post Adjutant; Paul Harper, Membership Director and Dale H. Lyons, First Vice Commander. Kneeling: Mathis Dunn (left) and Shelly Johnson.
The Johnnie Baker Post is a legacy leadership organization for Twin Cities Black community, and is located in Sabathani Community Center, 310 E. 38th Street, South Minneapolis.
Post commander Otis Jenkins said that McRae officials approached the Post last month with a proposal seeking support for the football program: "The proposal was excellent. The need was clear. We decided to act immediately on the proposal and the Post members were unanimous in our decision to fund the proposal."
The Johnnie Baker Post also supported the McRae Park Christmas program last December, Jenkins said. "We were so impressed with their Christmas event and their overall program that we decided we could be 100% behind the program." He said that the Johnnie Baker Post gave $500 to support the Christmas program. "As long as we can, we will continue to support the program. Our charge as an American Legion Post is to the support community in which we are located. We support parades, schools, volunteerism and more."
People remember the Johnnie Baker American Legion Post for its role as a membership-based nightclub. The Johnnie Baker Post was located on 4th Avenue South near Lake Street for many years. For the past seven years the organization has been housed in the Sabathani Community Center. Plans are underway to acquire a new facility, Jenkins said, but the priority will be expanding community and civic engagement.
Jenkins has served two terms as Commander of the post, and recently was elected to serve a third term. He said that his priority includes expanding membership in the organization. Presently, there are about forty members, with about twenty active in the affairs of the Post. Some ten to fifteen years ago the Post had upwards of 100 members with most of them actively participating in Post activities. Now many of the active members are in their 70s. Jenkins, a retired recruiter for the U.S. Navy, is sixty-nine. He said that membership is open to anyone honorably discharged from military service. He said there are many younger veterans in the market, and that Twin Cities recruiters are having success inviting young people to go into military service. Those who complete their military service are invited to become active in the service organization, he said.
Tela Burt, a charter member of the American Legion's Johnnie Baker Post who served as post commander and service officer, was born on June 19, 1891 in Warrenton, North Carolina. After his retirement from the Post Office became a licensed broker and started his own business, T.B. Burt Realty. He was one of the first African Americans in the Twin Cities area to enter the real estate field, a career he continued to practice well into his 80s. As post commander Burt organized the first Black American Legion baseball team and the first two Boy Scout troops. He died in 1995, at 104 years old.