By Debbie Gregory.
One the first African American U.S. Marines who served during World War II has died.
Angus Hardie “Jay” Jamerson’s daughter, Wendy Jamerson confirmed that her father died in his sleep at the age of 89. The Georgia resident would have celebrated his 90th birthday later this month.
A student at Morehouse College in Atlanta, Jamerson was drafted in 1945 and sent to Camp Lejeune, N.C. That’s where Montford Point, a segregated training facility, had been established.
Railroad tracks divided white residents from the camp for African American troops, and the black recruits were not allowed to enter the main base of nearby Camp Lejeune unless accompanied by a white Marine. By 1945, all drill instructors and many NCOs at Montford Point were African Americans.
Unlike the Tuskegee Airmen during World War II and the Army’s Buffalo Soldiers formed after the Civil War, blacks who served in the Montford Point Marines received scant recognition for decades. It’s estimated 20,000 of them trained from 1942 until 1949, when the Marine Corps was ordered to desegregate.
After 18 months of service, Jamerson left the Marines and returned to Morehouse College, where he graduated. He went on to earn a law degree in California
In 2011, U.S. lawmakers voted to award the Congressional Gold Medal, the highest civilian honor given by Congress, to the surviving Montford Point Marines. Only about 300 of them were still alive, and their numbers have been rapidly declining.
Wendy Jamerson said her father didn’t know about the congressional award until he read about it in the newspaper. She said he appeared nonchalant, telling her: “Well, you know, they’re going to give me a medal.”
But Jamerson’s pride was unmistakable.
“He did sleep with it for a couple of nights,” his wife Doris said. “We couldn’t get it off him.”