1919 Horace Hagan

Horace H. Hagan, Jr. First Commander of American Legion Post 1

Horace H. Hagan, Jr. (b. October 13, 1891) was elected Commander of Joe Carson Post 1 in 1919.  A founding member of Post 1, he went on to serve as Oklahoma’s first elected Department Commander,  and also served on The American Legion National Executive Committee. He was a successful attorney, practicing civil and criminal law, before and after his service in World War I.  He was a significant, though less well-known, figure in Tulsa history.

Commander Hagan came from a politically active family, which came to Oklahoma from Missouri settling in the Guthrie area before statehood.   His father, Horace Senior, was active in territorial politics as a member of the Democratic Party.   Horace Junior graduated from St. Mary’s College (undergraduate) and Georgetown University (law).  He moved to Tulsa in 1917 to practice law.  On arrival, he was immediately active in Tulsa civic groups, including the Elks, Knights of Columbus, and Sons of the American Revolution.  There are many newspaper stories listing him as a speaker in programs to raise money and public support for the Red Cross, Salvation Army, War Bond sales, and other programs.  He remained active in Tulsa civic activities throughout his life.

Commander Hagan qualified for American Legion membership by virtue of his active duty service as a Corporal in the Army Coast Artillery Corps (C.A.C.).  The story behind his enlistment in the Army was recounted in the April 30, 1918 Tulsa Daily World, which reported that Hagan was originally rejected for service because “he was a trifle overweight.”  This is confirmed by his draft registration card, which does not include his height and weight, but lists his build as “stout” (the choices were slender, medium and stout).  The article went on to state that Hagan secured a waiver for his weight (it was not unusual for overweight or obese volunteers to secure such a waiver), and he was accepted by the Army.  He was quoted as telling his friends as he departed to report to Fort Rosecrans, San Diego, California that “he would fit in beautifully with the surroundings in the heavy artillery” (italics added).  Soldiers in the C.A.C. were trained to fire heavy artillery, which was essential in blowing gaps in enemy trenches.  Their skills were so useful that 34 of the 57 C.A.C. regiments activated in World War I were deployed to France before the war ended.  The war ended prior to deployment of Hagan’s unit.

There is an interesting story concerning Commander Hagan’s election on October 21, 1919 as Department of Oklahoma Commander.  Less than a month before the convention, Ross Lillard, the first Department of Oklahoma Commander, resigned to run for Congress.  Hagan, who was very active in The American Legion at the local, state and national levels, was running hard for Department Commander and had the firm support of the Tulsa delegation.  In order to secure Hagan’s election as Commander, the Tulsa delegation, the largest in the state, pledged before the convention to support a resolution locating the Department headquarters in Oklahoma City in exchange for the Oklahoma City delegation’s pledge to vote for Hagan for Department Commander.  This unified the convention, and Hagan was unanimously elected Commander.

Hagan was a highly respected lawyer who established a national reputation for competence.  He served as an Assistant Attorney General of the State of Oklahoma, as a staff lawyer at the Texas Company, then in private practice, and finally as a Special Assistant to the Attorney General of the United States from 1934 to his death.  In this latter role, he served on a team of special prosecutors who prosecuted and obtained convictions of several prominent criminals across the United States, including Louis Piquett, John Dillinger’s Chicago lawyer.   Significantly, the investigation and prosecution of the cases prosecuted by this team led to the creation of the Federal Bureau of Investigation in 1935.

Commander Hagan’s life was one of service to his country.  He enlisted in the C.A.C. when others might have chosen to avoid service and continue to practice law.  He served veterans by leading American Legion local and national efforts to establish a veterans hospital in Oklahoma,  along with other programs for veterans.  His willingness to leave his law practice and serve as a Special Assistant to the Attorney General in the 1930s demonstrated his commitment to making Tulsa, and our country a better, safer place to live.

Hagan published several books, including

Eight Great American Lawyers (1923) (available as an eBook at https://babel.hathitrust.org/cgi/pt?id=mdp.35112101788133;view=1up;seq=1.)

The Dartmouth College Case (1931)

Commander Hagan died at age 45 on November 3, 1936 after suffering a stroke in his office in Tulsa.  He is buried in Summit View Cemetery, Guthrie, Oklahoma.

Picture from http://www.findagrave.com/cgi-bin/fg.cgi?page=pv&GRid=86832666&PIpi=83158212.