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County to lease building to VFW

Decatur County Commissioners said Tuesday they intend to lease the old American Legion building on Pierce Street for use by the Veterans of Foreign Wars Post No. 4904, which plans to fix it up.

The building is located at 1602 Pierce St. in West Bainbridge. The VFW, which used to meet on Colquitt Highway before selling its building, has recently been meeting at a Bainbridge restaurant. The planned lease agreement will allow the VFW post to move into a new home; according to Sheriff Wiley Griffin, the local post has a long and storied history dating back to World War II.

County Attorney Brown Moseley, who said he understood the building is in “some disrepair,” recommended the county lease the former American Legion building to the VFW for a fixed amount. According to Moseley, Georgia law prohibits the county from giving the property away for free or an otherwise nominal amount.

“But if [commissioners] so desire, the improvements [the VFW] make can be counted toward the rental payments,” Moseley said. “I don’t know of anyone else who is interested in the building.”

Commissioners Oliver Sellers and Russell Smith abstained from the vote to move forward with the agreement, which was otherwise unanimous, as they said they are members of VFW Post 4904.

VFW Post 4904’s history

Sheriff Griffin, who was before commissioners on other business, commented on some of VFW Post 4904’s notable members. The Phillips-Jester post in Bainbridge was named after two men who were the first veterans from Bainbridge and Decatur County to pass away, Griffin said.

Ensign C. Coleman Jester (Sept. 21, 1921—Sept. 23, 1943) served in the U.S. Navy during World War II and was buried at sea in Honolulu, Hawaii. He has a headstone in Oak City Cemetery.

Cpl. G.W. Phillips (Jan. 31, 1848—Oct. 21, 1924) was a Confederate soldier who served in the 29th Regiment, Georgia Infantry in the American Civil War. Cpl. Phillips is buried in Cool Springs Cemetery in the Faceville community. There is an iron Southern Cross of Honor that was added to his gravestone in 2006.

Three former commanders of VFW Post 4904 also went on to serve as state commander of the Georgia VFW, according to Griffin. Those men were Emmett Culbreth (1911-1953), Wiley M. Griffin Jr. (1923-1985) and H.E. “Poodle” Isaacs Jr. (1917-1993).

“Poodle” Isaacs served as a TEC 4 in the U.S. Army during World War II and is buried in Oak City Cemetery. He was the founder of Isaacs’ Bakery in downtown Bainbridge.

Culbreth also served as clerk of Decatur County Superior Court and the twin bridges that carry the U.S. 27/84 bypass over the Flint River are officially named in his memory, according to Sheriff Griffin.

Griffin Jr., who was Sheriff Griffin’s father, served in the U.S. Army during World War II and was VFW state commander in 1957-1958.