The fleeting fame of Henry L. Stevens Jr.

In media eras past, fame was indisputably validated by getting your picture on the cover of Time magazine (not to be confused, of course, with getting it on “The Cover of the Rolling Stone.”)

Although the debut cover of Time (March 3, 1923) depicted a Guilford County native — former House Speaker “Uncle Joe” Cannon of Illinois — the Encyclopedia of North Carolina considers little-remembered Henry L. Stevens Jr. of Warsaw the first North Carolinian to achieve the cover (1932).

From the essay supporting the highway historical marker 2 blocks south of Stevens’ home:

“Thrust into the national spotlight in 1931-32, Henry L. Stevens Jr. led the American Legion through a tumultuous period. Himself a decorated veteran of World War I, Stevens presided over the organization’s convention [in Detroit] in September 1931. Following a personal appeal from President Herbert Hoover, the group voted 902-507 not to support the demands of veterans to cash in the remaining 50 percent of their Adjusted Service Certificates.

“Earlier that year, Congress had overridden Hoover’s veto of a measure to permit vets to cash in half of the bonus, resulting in withdrawal of over $1 billion from the treasury. Stevens bore the brunt of criticism and was burned in effigy. Demands were heard for his resignation as national commander….

“The ‘Bonus Army’ marchers descended on Washington in spring 1932 where they set up camps and eventually were routed by Army troops led by General Douglas MacArthur.”

Stevens, a lawyer and longtime Superior Court judge, died in 1971 at age 75.

 

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