First Lieutenant Harpole, born 24 March 1891, was one of the first class of 639 Army officers to attend a training camp for black officer candidates as Fort Des Moines, Iowa. He attended this training camp from June 24 to October 14, 1917. He did not acquire military status while at camp but was considered a civilian candidate in training for a commission. He was appointed as First Lieutenant, Infantry Section Officers Reserve Corps on October 15, 1917. He entered active duty and served with Company M, 372nd Infantry at Camp Funston, Kansas. Camp Funston, Kansas was established as one of 16 Divisional Cantonment Training Camps during WWI. Later, First Lt. Harpole was sent to Camp Stuart, Virginia. On March 30, 1918, he left the United States for combat service overseas. With the 372nd Infantry Regiment, 93rd Infantry Division he served in the Air Defense sector and participated in the Meuse-Argonne Offensive (France). He was killed in action on October 5, 1918. He is buried at the Meuse-Argonne American Cemetery in Romagne, France, Plot B Row 41 Grave 03.
Lt. Harpole was also part of the original Illio Club. He and 7 other members founded Kappa Alpha Psi - Beta Chapter on February 8, 1913, at the University of Illinois, the oldest African-American organization at the school. The other members are Earl Burris Dickerson; Frank Lunsford Williams; William Jasper Prince; Byron F. Kenner; George C. Ellis; C.L.M. Cooper; H.L. Burnam; and Elmer A Brown.
-submitted by Anita Harpole Sharpe, Great Niece, and Annette Harpole, Great-Great Niece; additional information from George Hicks III, Curator, American Legion Post 249 and the Buffalo Soldiers Research Museum, Indianapolis, Indiana; and fraternity information from Michael McNeil
On July 6, 1936, a group of 15 black veterans of World War I finalized the organization of Tillman H. Harpole American Legion Post 249. Post 249 applied for temporary charter on July 21, 1936, and for a permanent charter on January 11, 1937. Permanent charter was granted January 21, 1937. The first post home was purchased at 2523 Northwestern Avenue (now Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Street) in 1938. On April 17-19, 1998, Post 249 dedicated a new building at the same location.
The Tillman H. Harpole Drum and Bugle Corps, organized in 1937, drew national attention and placed third in state competition. Its Color Guard was judged State Champions in 1939, and its marching unit was the pride of Indianapolis.
Tillman H. Harpole American Legion Post 249 is also home to the Buffalo Soldiers Research Museum that includes a large collection of photographs, historical documents, and artifacts from World War I. (African American military units were established in 1866. These soldiers were given the name "Buffalo Soldiers" by Indians who held the soldiers' fighting spirit in high regard.)