Paying Homage to Black Marines

Montford Point Marines Honored by the Board of Supervisor

As we mark the last week of Black History Month, we pay homage to the contributions made by the African-Americans of the past and of the present. It is important to note the successes in the hard-won fight for equality in the nation’s military and call attention to the ongoing struggle, most notably with regard to the sanctity of the Voting Rights Act of 1965, which is under siege and being reviewed by the U.S. Supreme Court this week.

At the Board of Supervisors meeting Tuesday, several Marines from the celebrated Montford Point Marine Association who were invited to the Hall of Administration by Supervisor Don Knabe, were recognized for their bravery and the historic role they played in ending discrimination in the armed forces.

At the time of their service, during World War II, they were not treated as equals to their white counterparts and, for example, were not allowed to enter the main base of nearby Camp Lejeune unless escorted by a white Marine. But they pushed on and persevered, teaching all Americans that color should not bar anyone from serving one’s country. Throughout Word War II, approximately 20,000 African-American recruits were trained at the camp. Montford Point Marines William “Jack” McDowell of Long Beach, 85, who served in World War II and the Korean and Vietnam wars during his 23-year career as a Marine, and Vaughan Whitworth, 88, of Los Angeles, who served in the Pacific Theater during World War II, accepted the scrolls given to them by the Board of Supervisors.

Later this week, the county’s African-American employees association will host its annual Black History Month celebration , where Jackie Lacey, the county’s first woman and African-American District Attorney will be honored.

This week is particularly significant for African Americans because the U.S. Supreme Court is scheduled to hear a case challenging Section 5, a key provision of the Voting Rights Act, which requires all or parts of 16 states, including California, with a history of discriminatory voting practices to get federal approval before making any changes in voting procedure. It is a cornerstone piece of the law that has enabled minorities to have a true voice in the democratic process and prevent disenfranchisement.

“The push for equality by African Americans is a dominant theme of black history in the U.S. and we are hopeful that the court will continue protecting the voting rights of all Americans,” said Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors Chairman Mark Ridley-Thomas, who is also chairing the employees association celebration. “While we should acknowledge and celebrate the contributions made by Americans of all origins year round, I am honored to take the last few days of February to highlight the travails and successes by people of African descent.”