Medal ceremony held to honor Montford Point Marines in South Florida

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. – A medal ceremony was held at the African-American Research Studies Library in Fort Lauderdale on Monday.

It ensured that two Montford Point Marines with South Florida ties are now among the counted.

Surrounded by loves ones, Cpl. George Johnson, one of the last living Montford Point Marines, received a bronze replica of a congressional gold medal, and three additional medals were pinned to his original uniform.

They were all earned for serving as a Montford Point Marine, the first group of Black men to integrate the Marine Corps in the early 1940s.

“It’s hard to believe. It’s very incredible,” said Johnson. “Those that gave it to me and those who made it possible for me to have it.”

Added Grace King, Johnson’s cousin and caregiver: “He enjoyed it. He was happy and that’s what all counts.”

The 101-year-old was one of 20,000 men who trained at Montford Point during the 1940s, a camp they were forced to build from the ground up while having to prove themselves every day to white leaders who didn’t believe they could succeed.

“Commander XXX stated I would rather have 5000 white marines than 250,000 blacks. For they are trying to break into a club that don’t want them,” said Dr. James T. Averheart, Jr., President of the National Montford Point Marine Association. “It brings it home you know, what they was facing.”

An official roster of Montford Point Marines never existed. Only 10 percent of Montford Pointers have been identified to date, and even fewer have gotten their medal.

“We’ve awarded about 3000 congressional gold medal replicas as of today. Currently we have about 400 still living,” said Donald Johnson, VP of the Montford Points Marine Association. “We’re losing Montford Pointers every day.”

To those who have been and are currently being honored, it means finally being recognized for putting country before self, something every veteran should know is appreciated.

“I am just so happy that we were able to put this together for him so quickly,” said King, while adding to Local 10 News for covering the stories, “You brought to light our hidden gems and for that we’re thankful.”

Local 10 News’ story on Mallorie Berger and her efforts to find and identify Montford Point Marines helped put the wheels in motion.

“I was really on the edge of tears and I kept taking deep breaths because he’s 101. He should’ve gotten this medal a long time ago,” said Berger.

Also honored Monday was Cpl. Moses Williams, who died in 1970. His daughter Pamela Williams accepted a medal on his behalf.

“It’s historic. It’s groundbreaking. And it’s a point of pride,” she said. “I think he would’ve been thrilled and also a little shy about it because he was sort of a quiet guy.”

A third Montford Point Marine that was discovered as a result of Local 10 News’ reporting, Pfc. Joseph Brinson, will receive his posthumous medal later this year.

About the Author:

Liane Morejon is an Emmy-winning reporter who joined the Local 10 News family in January 2010. Born and raised in Coral Gables, Liane has a unique perspective on covering news in her own backyard.