What is the Legion de Lafayette?
The Marquis de Lafayette, Major General, U.S. Army, was a volunteer, a champion of liberty, and adopted son of Virginia Planter George Washington.
Lafayette’s contributions to America symbolize the character model for every member of the National Guard. It is fitting that his “beloved Marquis” gave Washington’s creation, the organized militia of these United States, its enduring name.
During his visit to New York City in 1824, the New York militia unit, later to become renowned as the Seventh Regiment, provided Lafayette his guard of honor. Lafayette had won great esteem in France as the commander of the famed “Guard Nationale de Paris.” To the members of the New York unit, it seemed appropriate that, in view of the honor that had been accorded them, they should re-designate the unit to reflect its “special relationship” with Lafayette. They voted to call themselves “The National Guards” out of respect to the “The Guard Nationale.” Soon other militia units and entire states adopted the new militia name. In 1903, with the passing of the Dick Act (named after Ohio Congressman Charles Dick), it became the official name of Washington’s well-organized and disciplined militia.
In 1832, the year the nation celebrated the 100th Anniversary of the birthday of George Washington, the men of the Seventh Regiment decided to honor the memory of Washington with a presentation to his old friend and wartime comrade-in-arms. An artist was commissioned to create a special regimental presentation medal to be made of gold mined in the Eastern United States – quite a rarity at the time! The medal was to contain cameo-like portraits of both Lafayette and Washington. It was taken to the annual summer camp of the regiment for all to see – and then the medal was sent off to France. The United States Consul in Lyons was asked to make a presentation and on November 21, 1832, the Consul, and noted author, James Fenimore Cooper presented the medal to Lafayette during a dinner he hosted in Lafayette’s honor at the Consulate.
In keeping with the significance of Lafayette to the National Guard, in 1987 the National Guard Educational Foundation (then known as the Historical Society of the Militia and National Guard) established the Legion de Lafayette. Its intent is to recognize patrons that significantly advance the Foundation’s work. In September 1988, at the 109th National Guard Association General Conference in Portland, Oregon, the Foundation enrolled the first two members into the Legion de Lafayette: the Emerson Electronics Company of St. Louis, Missouri and the FMC Corporation of San Jose, California. Both made a contribution of $10,000, which established the minimum financial contribution for entry into the Legion de Lafayette. Currently, 105 foundations and corporations have been enrolled into the Legion de Lafayette. The Legion also has 63 individual members, including former President of the United States, Ronald Reagan. Additionally, 149 National Guard Units are members of the Legion de Lafayette. With its donation of $50,000 to the NGEF Operating Endowment in 2001, Sikorsky Aircraft has now become the founding member of the Legion de Lafayette, Order of President Washington.
As a badge of membership in the Legion de Lafayette, in 1987 the National Guard Educational Foundation cast a medallion from the original Lafayette medal commissioned by the Seventh Regiment and suspended it from a red, white, and blue ribbon. A lapel miniature of the Lafayette medal and a Certificate of Membership round out the presentation set. Introduction into the Legion occurs at the annual NGAUS Conference.
Legion de Lafayette Grows
(Nov. 17, 2012)
Growing Legion: 15 Large Donors Aid NGEF
(July 14, 2012)
Legion de Lafayette Adds Four New Members
(March 10, 2012)
Donors Boost NGEF Coffers
(Nov. 5, 2011)
NGEF's Legion de Lafayette Adds Members
Donors Contribute $165,000 to NGEF Program
(July 18, 2011)
Legion de Lafayette Donors Feted at Reception
(March 15, 2011)
Donors Step Forward for Legion de Lafayette
(Nov. 19, 2010)
(July 17, 2010)
Historic Evening: NGEF Celebrates $160,000 in Contributions
(March 16, 2010)