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 September 1931. At the Detroit session, 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 fifty 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 controversy landed him on the cover of Time. The “Bonus Army” marchers descended on Washington in the spring of 1932 where they set up camps and eventually were routed by Army troops led by General Douglas MacArthur.
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A native of Warsaw, Stevens studied at the University of North Carolina and Harvard Law School. In 1921 he began practice in Kenansville. From 1939 to 1962 he served as a Superior Court judge; he saw service as an emergency judge from 1963 until his death. Profiled in 1939 by a young David Brinkley, Judge Stevens was portrayed as a strict courtroom disciplinarian with a penchant for propounding his views on “Americanism.”
William S. Powell, ed., Dictionary of North Carolina Biography, V, 445-446 -- sketch by Charles M. Ingram
Robert V. Parker, “The Bonus March of 1932: A Unique Experience in North Carolina Political and Social Life,” North Carolina Historical Review (Winter 1974): 64-89
Frances W. McGowen and Pearl C. McGowen, eds., Flashes of Duplin History and Government (1971)
Time, September 12, 1932
Wilmington Morning Star, July 1939 (day of the month not available)
(Raleigh) News and Observer, August 6, 1971
TIME magazine cover featuring Henry L. Stevens Jr.