Headlines in the Midlands
South Carolina Montford Point Marines to be Honored with Congressional Gold Medal
The Montford Point Marines were the Marines’ equivalent to the Tuskegee Airmen. President Franklin Roosevelt opened the door for the military to begin recruiting blacks in 1941, and the Marines were among the last branches to comply. Between 1942 and 1949, when the Marines officially desegregated, approximately, 20,000 African Americans were trained as Marines at Montford Point, North Carolina. The conditions were inferior to those of their white counterparts in Parris Island. The recruits lived in prefabricated huts meant for 16 people, but sometimes held twice that number. In addition to horrible living conditions and the constant presence of snakes and mosquitoes, the men were subjected to racial slurs and taunts by the drill instructors. Yet they proved their mettle, and served with dignity and honor.
Assistant Democratic Leader and Sixth District Congressman James E. Clyburn worked with the bill’s author Congresswoman Corrine Brown (D-FL) to secure the passage of the Congressional Gold Medal for the Montford Point Marines.
“I heard firsthand the story of these brave Marines from a long time friend Jim Campbell of Charleston and the late James Glover, Jr. of Orangeburg, who were among the first to train at Montford Point,” Congressman Clyburn said. “I was so moved by the story of these unsung heroes that I knew their service and sacrifice deserved recognition. I regret that Reverend Glover didn’t live to see this day, but I am pleased that eight South Carolinians will be traveling to Washington for this long overdue honor.”
The South Carolinians to receive the Congressional Gold Medal are: Frank F. Chandler of Holly Hill, Randolph R. Harrell of Timmonsville, James J. Knotts of Columbia, James J. Moore of Hampton, Charles C. Payne of Orangeburg, Stoney S. Toomer of Beaufort, LaSalle L. Vaughn of Port Royal, and Walter W. Winfield of Anderson.
Both the House and Senate gave unanimous approval to awarding the Montford Point Marines the Congressional Gold Medal, and on November 23, 2011, President Obama signed the bill into law granting recognition for their personal sacrifice and service to their country.
The Pentagon established a Montford Point Marine Command Operations Center to coordinate the Congressional Gold Medal Ceremony events, and the Montford Point Marine Association, Inc. helped to identify those eligible to attend tomorrow’s ceremony.