In the first years of the twentieth century, Athens’ citizens formed a new National Guard company. The guardsmen initially held drill at the Campbell Block on Court Street, but soon the Athens Commercial Club began advocating for an armory from the Ohio National Guard. In 1912, the Armory Board approved the request. Plans were drawn up for the armory and the Guard purchased land from the Athens Brick Company at the foot of Shale Hill. Construction began in the spring of 1915 and the Armory opened in December. In March of 1917, the city held a dedication ceremony and parade. Before World War I, the Athens Armory housed Company L and the Machine Gun Company, both part of the 7th Infantry Regiment, Ohio National Guard. (Continued on other side)
Jess Willard, the 6′ 6″ 245-pound boxing champion, was a shy and gentle Kansas native who had won the championship from Jack Johnson of Texas in 1915 in Havana, Cuba. Jack (William Harrison) Dempsey of Manassa, Colorado, hailed as the greatest fighter of the half-century by the Associated Press, began his career in 1911, defeating opponents with his trademark bobbing and weaving style. Dempsey’s manager, Jack “Doc” Kearns, captured the attention of fight promoter Tex Rickard, who was looking for a Willard challenger. Despite the size and weight difference of the boxers, the bout was arranged.