The American Legion Rainbow Post No. 2 will hold a memorial service today to honor Lt. Gen. Mathew Tinley, a native son and the first commander of The American Legion Department of Iowa.
The service will begin at 10 a.m. at Tinley’s gravesite at St. Joseph Cemetery, East Pierce Street and McPherson Avenue, Council Bluffs.
Department of Iowa Cmdr. J. Scott Moline and 100th Anniversary Chairman Roger Norfolk are expected to attend the service. Moline will speak during the event and place a commemorative wreath on Tinley’s grave.
The event is part of the observance of the 100th anniversary of the establishment of The American Legion.
“The American Legion was chartered by Congress in 1919 as a patriotic, wartime veterans organization devoted to mutual helpfulness,” according to a description on The American Legion Department of Iowa website. “It is a community-service organization which now numbers nearly 3 million members — men and women — in nearly 15,000 American Legion posts worldwide.”
There are 55 departments — one for each state, as well as for the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, France, Mexico and the Philippines.
Tinley was selected chairman of Iowa’s temporary executive committee after the Legion convention in May 1919 in St. Louis and was unanimously elected commander of the Department of Iowa during its first convention on Sept. 4, according to the Department of Iowa website.
By the time Tinley presided over Iowa’s second convention in September 1920, the effectiveness of his leadership was evident, Post No. 2 member Brad Powell said.
“In one year, he managed to have 542 posts in Iowa with 37,000 members,” he said. “That’s pretty good!”
“To have accomplished that growth in the 16 months between May 1919 and September 1920 is a tribute to his leadership and ability to “speak the word” of The American Legion,” stated a historical summary written by Roger Norfolk and Past National Cmdr. David Rehbein and posted on Jan. 1, 2019 on the Harvey T. Rimel American Legion Post 141 website.
Tinley was born on March 5, 1876, above a small grocery store at 1017 Main St. in Council Bluffs, the summary stated. He was one of eight children of Mathew Hugh and Rose (Dolan) Tinley. He participated in his high school’s voluntary cadet company and graduated in 1894. Soon after graduation, he joined the Dodge Light Guards, 3rd Iowa Infantry.
He started college in 1894 at the University of Nebraska but dropped out of medical school in 1898 to serve in the Spanish-American War. He moved up quickly and earned his captain’s bars before leaving active duty. He then went back to college and graduated from the University of Nebraska in 1902 as a Doctor of Medicine. He completed graduate work in obstetrics in New York and began practicing at Jennie Edmundson Hospital, where he would later serve as chief of staff. He served on the Mexican border briefly in 1917 with the 3rd Iowa Infantry.
In August of that year, he was serving in Europe with the 42nd “Rainbow” Division. In October, he was promoted to colonel and placed in command of the 168th Infantry Regiment of the 42nd Division. Tinley ended his military career as a three-star general and came out of retirement in 1940 to lead the Iowa State Guard.
Among Tinley’s honors were the French War Cross, French Legion of Honor, American Service Medal, Distinguished Service Cross, Spanish War Service Medal, Philippine Congressional Medal, Philippine Campaign Medal, Mexican Border Service Medal, Victory Medal with one silver and five bronze stars and the following clasps: Champagne, Aisen-Marne, Meuse-Argonne, Saint Mihiel, Chateau Thierry, Defensive Sector, Legion of Honor, Officer with Rosette and Croix-De-Guerre with gold star.
He retired from medical practice in 1953 and died on March 11, 1956 in Council Bluffs.