Tue., October 2, 2012 6:08pm (EDT)

Pioneering Marine Honored In Macon
By Adam Ragusea
Updated: 2 years ago

MACON, Ga.  —  
Montford Point Marine and long-time Macon community leader Frank Johnson sits with his family at a cermony in his honor. (Adam Ragusea / GPB News)
Montford Point Marine and long-time Macon community leader Frank Johnson sits with his family at a cermony in his honor. (Adam Ragusea / GPB News)
When a group of the first-ever African American U.S. Marines received the Congressional Gold Medal in Washington this summer, one of them was too frail to make the trip.

Tuesday, the medal came to him.

Blacks weren’t welcome in the Marine Corps until 1942, when President Roosevelt needed more troops for World War II. Over the next seven years, about 20,000 men endured basic training at the segregated facility at Camp Lejeune, North Carolina that gave them their name: Montford Point Marines.

At a ceremony in Macon City Hall, now 85-year-old Frank Johnson received a replica of the gold medal he couldn’t travel to see.

Unable to speak and with use of just his right hand, he waved it in a clapping motion only once during the proceedings, as Master Sergeant Michael McGraw finished reading a letter attributed to "Barack Obama, Commander in Chief."

The moment may have held special significance for a man who marched with the Montford Point Marines, and later with Martin Luther King at Selma.