Charles P. Braxton dies; WWII vet was first African-American in police Marine Unit
Philadelphia Daily News
PHILADELPHIA — Charles P. Braxton was there when the U.S. Army fought its way across Europe in World War II, culminating in the bitter Battle of the Bulge.
But Charles Braxton wasn't allowed to do much fighting. He was African American, and the American military didn't think black men were able to fight.
He performed service duties as the Army battled through Northern France, the Rhineland, central Europe, culminating in the Ardennes in Belgium in December 1944 when the German army made a last, desperate effort to win the war.
But after his discharge, Charles Braxton was not finished with war. He returned to combat in the Korean War in the early '50s, when black soldiers were allowed to fight and die for their country, as they had been doing since the Revolution.
Charles Braxton, a decorated 20-year Philadelphia police officer, who became a pioneer as the first African American to serve in the Marine Unit, a handyman who was more like a one-man construction company when he got started, died Oct. 3 from complications of a seizure. He was 86 and lived in East Falls.
Charles served in World War II from 1943 to 1945, and Korea from 1950 to 1952.
He was born in Philadelphia to Lavenia and Milton Braxton. He graduated from Germantown High School.
He joined the police force in 1953, and served in a number of units, including the Highway Patrol, riding a motorcycle. His last assignment was the Marine Unit, in which he patrolled the Delaware River and did hard-hat diving.
He received a commendation for rescuing a man who had fallen into the river.
Charles was a skilled craftsman who was capable of rebuilding a kitchen, knocking down walls and also tackling smaller jobs, mostly in his own home. But he also was generous with his talents with family and friends.
To relax, he and some buddies would hire a boat at the Jersey Shore and do some deep-sea fishing.
He married the former Marie Woody in 1951. Besides her, he is survived by a daughter, Linda Graham, and two grandchildren.