INSIGHTS of the 131st Annual NSSAR Congress meeting held in Renton Wash from the Desk of Idaho Society SAR President Ellis Rail

The following is a summary of events and my impressions of my attendance at the 131st Annual NSSAR Congress held at the Hyatt Regency Lake Washington in Renton, Washing from July 10-14, 2021. The event was hosted by the Washington Society of the Sons of the American Revolution.

I checked in Friday evening, July 9, and was impressed by the cordial welcome extended to me as a first-time attendee by members and officers at all levels. There was no way for me to feel lost or disoriented. I acquired greater understanding of the term Compatriot.

There were several National Committee and Board meetings on Saturday, July 10, including the meeting of the 2019-2021 Trustees. Many delegates not involved in those meetings took advantage of the opportunity to take a bus tour of the city of Seattle that included stops at the Chihuly Garden and Glass Museum, the Space Needle, and the Pike Place Market. The day ended with a Host Society Reception at the Museum of Flight.

Sunday, July 11, saw more committee meetings. The highlights of the day included the President General Review of the Color Guard, a Memorial Service to honor Compatriots who had passed away since the last Congress including Idaho Society Compatriots Richard Earl Meiers and James Guy Huntley and the Joseph S. Rumbaugh Oration Contest Finals.

The Color Guard Review was an impressive sight to behold as approximately 50 Color Guard members in Revolutionary War period attire accompanied by fife and drum were reviewed by the President General John Manning.

The Joseph S. Rumbaugh Oration Contest involved High School aged students presenting from memory talks on Revolutionary War themes. The presentations were excellent, moving, and instilled a powerful spirit of patriotism in the hearts of the listeners.

Monday, July 12, I attended the Council of State Presidents breakfast where I had the opportunity to meet presidents of the other state societies. As a first time Congress attendee, I was invited to stand and introduce my self to the other members of the Council.

I attended the Opening Session of the Congress which was, again, impressive because of the presentation of the colors by the SAR Combined Color Guard. The meeting followed the format we follow in our state and chapter meetings as far as pledges and committee reports. The morning session recessed for lunch.

I attended the Youth Awards Luncheon where recognition was given to the First Place Winners of the various NSSAR Youth Contests including the Knight Essay Contest.

The Congress reconvened for the afternoon session to continue with unfinished business.

In the evening, the Congress reassembled for Recognition Night honoring members, chapters, and state societies for having rendered outstanding services to the National Society during the year. Major recognition was given to the recipients of the Minuteman Award. Only 6 individuals in all of SAR are honored each year. There were 6 honorees for 2020 because there was no Congress held in 2020, and 6 honorees for 2021. Idaho Society received recognition for its participation in the Knight Essay Contest, for the Admiral Furlong Award for the awarding of Flag Certificates, and an award because all chapters in Idaho participated in the presentation of Flag Certificates.

Tuesday, July 13, I attended the Intermountain-Rocky Mountain-Western-Pacific Districts Breakfast where I had the opportunity to meet with leaders of the districts. The Second Session of Congress convened after the breakfasts, completed unfinished busines, and began work on new business including the nomination of candidates for General Officers and Vice Presidents General of the National Society for the term 2021-2022. Only one office was contested so a run-off ballot was scheduled for later in the afternoon. I participated in that balloting.

I attended the George Washington Fellows and Vice Presidents General Luncheon. It was another opportunity to meet other officers, receive a financial report on the George Washington Endowment Fund and elect new members to the board.

I attended the Council of State Presidents business meeting where elections were held for council officers, and for members and alternates of the council’s representatives to the National Nominating Committee. I was elected as second alternate.

Tuesday evening was the President General’s Banquet. It was a formal occasion and the first time I had worn a tuxedo since High School. The highlight of the evening was the guest speaker, General James N. Mattis, the presentation of the President General awards, and concluding remarks by outgoing NSSAR President General John T. Manning.

Wednesday, July 14, I attended the final session of Congress where the election of National Trustees, the declaration of the election of General Officers, and the completion of unfinished business of the 131st Annual Congress took place. The business session was adjourned.

I attended and participated in a Compatriot Grave Marking Ceremony at the GAR Cemetery in Seattle. The ceremony, headed by the Washington Society, honored Compatriot John Noble Wallingford (4 July 1833 – 8 March 1913) who was the last surviving son on the Pacific Coast of an American soldier who fought the British in the War of Independence. At the appropriate point in the ceremony, I had the opportunity to “bring honors” on behalf of the Idaho Society SAR. This included the placement of a wreath.

In the evening, I attended the Installation Banquet, another formal event. The banquet opened with remarks by the President General, John T. Manning, followed by the installation of new General Officers and Vice Presidents General. This was followed by installation of the new President General, the George Washington Ring Ceremony, and remarks by the newly installed President General. Davis L. Wright. After closing ceremonies including the recessional, retiring of the colors, and the benediction, the 131st Annual Congress was adjourned.

Ellis Rail
President, Idaho Society SAR