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Montford Point Marine Rev. Archibald Mosley is remembered as hero, role model, friend

Montford Point Marine Archibald Mosley, Jr. sits for a portrait in Washington, D.C., June 27, 2012.

U.S. MARINE CORPS

By MARILYN HALSTEAD | The Southern Illinoisan, Ill. | Published: August 14, 2020

CARBONDALE, Ill. (Tribune News Service) — The Rev. Dr. Archibald Mosley is being remembered as a mentor and hero. Mosley, a Carbondale native, died at Aug. 6 at age 95 in Nashville, Tenn.

Mosley was born in Carbondale and attended Attucks High School, where his obituary says he excelled in academics and athletics.

Soon after President Franklin Roosevelt issued an executive order allowing Black Americans to join the Marine Corps in 1941, 18-year-old Mosley enlisted. He was one of the first Black Marines.

During Veterans Honor Fight of Southern Illinois’ inaugural trip to Washington, D.C., Mosley described his service as “a corporal serving in a Marine Corps amphibious unit.” His hat, which read “Montford Point Marine,” and his stories that day told more about his remarkable service.

Mosley was sent to Camp Montford Point, a segregated Marine camp adjacent to Camp Lejeune in North Carolina. It lacked the comforts afforded to white Marines, such as hot water and adequate heat.

He served as a weapons instructor before deploying to Guam and Iwo Jima, where he delivered ammunition to the front lines. In 1945, Mosley deployed to Nagasaki, Japan, where the Montford Point Marines were assigned to clean up after the atomic bomb was dropped.

Mosley received numerous medals for his service, delivered decades after he was honorably discharged in 1946. In 2012, the Montford Point Marines were awarded the Congressional Gold Medal, the highest civilian award presented by Congress, in a ceremony Mosley attended at the U.S. Capitol.

Mosley’s experience as one of the first Black Marines marked the beginning of decades of service and many accomplishments. He attended Southern Illinois University and later entered Payne Theological Seminary at Wilberforce University to become a Methodist minister. He earned five post-graduate degrees, including a Ph.D. in communications from Wayne State University.

Mosley taught for more than a decade in Illinois public schools and served as a pastor much longer. In 1966, he moved his family to Michigan, were he also served as a professor and dean at Shaw College of Detroit from 1969 to 1974 and pastored churches in Lansing, Detroit, and Pontiac.

As Mosley’s daughters grew older, the family relocated to Michigan in 1966. Mosley became He also served as pastor of Trinity AME Church in Lansing, St. John AME Church in Detroit and eventually Newman AME Church in Pontiac. Mosley was communications coordinator for the city of Pontiac until he retired in 1992.

Longtime friend James McKinley, of Carbondale, described Mosley, who was about eight years older, as a friend, role model and mentor — someone he wanted to be like. He said Mosley’s leadership skills were evident as a youth.

“He always was the boss. He told us what to do, when to do it and how to do it. He wasn’t mean about it. He wanted us to know how to do things better,” McKinley said.

McKinley added that he always wanted to be like Mosley, not following his occupation, but his character. “I wanted to be the kind of person he was,” McKinley said.

Mosley married McKinley and his wife. “He told us we were not playing games. If he married us, we were going to stay married,” McKinley said.

Elizabeth Lewin, the oldest of Mosley’s four daughters, said her father always let them know he loved the Lord first and then his family.

She was given the position as “assistant” on whatever her father was doing. When Mosley was preaching on a circuit, Lewin learned to drive. He fell asleep on the way home one Sunday. He enlisted his assistant to help drive home. Lewin thinks she was 13.

She doesn’t remember her father spanking her or her sisters. "He would sit us down on the couch and a lecture, more of a sermon. He let us know what we did reflected on him,” Lewin said.

Lewin said each of his children took a slice of what he did with them into adulthood and their careers. She was a teacher and administrator. They also learned to serve others.

“We had to give back. Whatever the Lord afforded you, you have to share,” she said.

Mosley was known for his ability to spin a tale and could captivate an audience with his story-telling ability. However, McKinley had a story to share.

His family and two others from Carbondale were living in Chicago after graduating from SIU. They decided to surprise Mosley one Sunday by attending his church service in Lansing. They left Chicago in time for church, not realizing Lansing was in the Eastern time zone. They arrived at the church at the end of the service as Mosley asked those who needed prayer or to dedicate their lives to the front of the church.

McKinley said the three friends, their wives and children just proceeded down the aisle to the front of the church. He laughed, saying it extended the church service because Mosley had to tell the congregation about the visitors, then sing for them.

“It was important for us to be there,” McKinley said. “We always talked about it and laughed.”

Visitation for the Rev. Mosley will be from 10 a.m. to noon Saturday in New Zion Baptist Church in Carbondale, followed by private funeral services. Due to COVID-19 restrictions, masks and physical distancing are required. Burial will be in Oakland Cemetery in Carbondale.

marilyn.halstead@thesouthern.com

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Rev. Dr. Archibald Mosley, as a U.S. Marine in the 1940s.