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Legion post merger finalized
New L.C. Pace-Eugene Brown Post 328 Commander Johnny Varner, right, salutes Charlie Tucker, American Legion Department of Georgia senior vice commander, on Tuesday evening during a dedication ceremony that combines Post 521-Gainesville and Post 534-Buford.

BUFORD — There were quite a few mixed emotions among the dwindling membership of Buford’s American Legion Post 534 when a proposed merger with Gainesville’s Post 521 was first suggested more than two years ago, John Dorsey confirmed Tuesday.

Dorsey, a Vietnam veteran who has commanded the Gwinnett County legion post off and on for the past 30 years, said it even lost a few members when the vote in favor of a merger was finalized.

Both groups are historically black chapters founded in the mid-1940s, when American Legion posts were segregated. In recent years, both have lost their headquarters for differing reasons. The Gwinnett post has struggled to keep membership rolls active, while the Gainesville’s post last meeting place was condemned.

“We had to do something,” Dorsey said. “We’re going to combine our assets and get on the right track and try to make a go of it. We were just spinning our wheels.”

On Tuesday night during a brief ceremony in a borrowed post headquarters, American Legion Eugene Brown Post 521 and L.C. Pace Post 534 were officially retired after more than 60 years of existence. The new post gives a respectful nod to both with the name “L.C. Pace–Eugene Brown Post 328.”

“We’ve got to move on,” said Lamar Millsap, the newly elected finance director, wearing a ballcap stitched with the new post designation. “It’s progress.”

In an uncontested election among about 25 people, former Post 521 Commander Johnny Varner was elected commander, with Dorsey the senior vice commander. Their job will be to work together to find and build a new post, most likely in Flowery Branch, halfway between the locations of the two old posts.

“It’s not going to be easy,” Varner said. “It wasn’t easy getting this far. But hopefully the end result will be good and we’ll promote 100 percent Americanism for the good of the legion.”

Charlie Tucker, senior vice commander for the Georgia Department of American Legion, said such mergers are not common.

“All want to maintain their own identity, but some have to do it for economic reasons,” Tucker said.

In Georgia, the 500 numbers were used to designate black posts. The new post number — 328 — brings an end to that vestige of postwar segregation.

Dorsey said all veterans, regardless of race, are welcome to join the new post.

Former post 521 member James Wills isn’t worried that the founders will be forgotten.

“The names will still be there,” he said. “The history will reflect the history of both chapters.”

Said Varner, “We’re just going to be a stronger post.”