Atlanta veteran receives medal as one of nation’s first Black Marines
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution February 9, 2023
(Tribune News Service) — The Montford Point Marines were the first Black men to enlist after President Franklin D. Roosevelt‘s 1941 executive order banned the exclusion of African Americans from military service.
One of those Marines was Atlanta resident Sgt. Lee Raymond Shelton.
On Wednesday evening, Shelton finally received recognition for his part in helping to desegregate the armed forces. In November 2011, then-President Barack Obama signed a law awarding the Congressional Gold Medal to the Montford Point Marines.
Since then, the challenge has been finding the surviving members of the 20,000-man cohort. According to Channel 2 Action News, only about 2,000 have received their medals so far.
After their training at the segregated Montford Point facility in North Carolina (white Marines trained at Camp Lejeune), the Montford Point Marines went on to fight at Peleliu, Saipan, and Iwo Jima, among other battles.
“These men came from all walks of life. Men who were farmers, musicians, lawyers, doctors, teachers, politicians, semi-pro baseball players. And, some were already in the Army as commissioned officers, and they relinquished their command and most of their commissions to become United States Marines,” James T. Averhart, national president of the Montford Point Marines Association, said during a Monday ceremony honoring two members in Florida. “Many had endured the Depression. All had endured racism and second-class citizenship and soon would face Jim Crow treatment at Jacksonville, North Carolina.”
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