Egbert Brady, Thomas Lane IV and Melvin Scott came from different states to Camp Montford Point in Jacksonville, N.C., during World War II. They were among the first African Americans to join the U.S. Marine Corps, but their training was separate from that of white recruits.
All three are now residents of South Jersey, and they recently traveled to Washington with about 370 other surviving Montford Point Marines to receive the Congressional Gold Medal — the nation’s highest civilian award — for their courage and perseverance.
“We were young men who had one thing in common. We all felt we could do almost anything, if given the chance,” said Lane, 87, of the Gouldtown section of Fairfield Township, who enlisted the day after he graduated from high school in Philadelphia in 1943.
They put up with substandard, segregated housing in all-black units led by white officers. And there was a lot of prejudice from white Marines.
Standing from left, Melvin Scott, 85, of Mays Landing; Thomas Lane IV, 87, of Fairfield Township; and in front Egbert Brady, 90, of Vineland, show the Congressional Gold Medals they received for being among the first African Americans to join the U.S. Marine Corps.
“We weren’t wanted,” said Scott, 85, of Mays Landing, who grew up in Washington and attended Paul Laurence Dunbar High School, the nation’s first high school for black students.
All had grown up with segregation. They wanted to be Marines because they considered it the toughest branch of the service.
“We had to prove we were capable of being there,” Scott said.
“It was kind of hard when I first went in,” said Brady, 90, of Vineland, a career Marine who fought in World War II and Korea, then became a C-130 transport pilot and went to Vietnam. “But I grew to like it. I stayed 29 years.”
Lane and Scott met at Montford Point. When Lane’s unit went overseas, Scott said to him, “See you later, buddy.”
And he did see him 13 years later, in Vineland. They had both gone to college, married and taken teaching jobs in South Jersey.
Both became school administrators. Scott was the supervisor of federal and compensatory programs for the Vineland School District for about 30 years. Lane retired as superintendent of Bridgeton public schools in 1993.
The Marines admitted their first black members in 1942, but units remained segregated until President Harry S. Truman issued an executive order in 1948 to stop the practice.
Y member’s 101 candles
The YMCA of Vineland held an informal 101st birthday party Friday for its oldest member, Ted Krause, whose been a member for 42 years.
Krause still swims about five days a week, a Y representative said.
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