This month, five Marines from High Point will be recognized by the city council and a local museum for their service, and for their roles in breaking the race barrier in the military.
In 1941, President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed an executive order prohibiting racial discrimination in the defense industry or in government. The following year the first Black recruits in the Marine Corps began training under harsh conditions at the racially segregated base in North Carolina known as Montford Point, just a few miles from Camp Lejeune. By the time it closed in 1949, some 20,000 Black men had trained there.
In 2011, President Barack Obama signed a law that authorized the awarding of a Congressional Gold Medal collectively to all the Montford Point Marines. Among them was High Point’s George Henry Garlington Sr.
In addition to being recognized by the city council next week, his daughter Nora Garlington McAdoo and other family members will receive a replica on behalf of her late father at the High Point Museum.
"Oftentimes Blacks or African Americans are just not recognized for contributions that they have made to this country," says McAdoo. "And since he was a part of that I felt like he needs to be recognized for what he has done."
After World War II her father returned to High Point and worked at Southern Railway for more than 40 years. His son, George Garlington Jr., retired Air Force, only recalls his dad speaking of his military service once, a year or two before he passed.
He says on their return from church one Mother’s Day, they stopped at the cemetery to place flowers on his grandmother’s grave and pray. George Sr. had been overseas during the war when she died. And when asked about her funeral service, his father’s response caught him by surprise.
"He said, 'No, I wasn’t able to. I wasn’t able to come to the funeral,' because he said, 'Matter of fact, when they informed me that she had died, she had died and she was buried,'" says Garlington.
Garlington, who was one of the William Penn High School students who staged a sit-in at a segregated lunch counter in High Point, says he’s proud of his father and what he went through. He adds that he’s glad his father is finally being recognized after all this time.
The National Montford Point Marine Association provides that recognition. Tammy Williamson is a former Marine who directs the Triangle and Triad divisions. She says so far they’ve awarded some 3,000 Montford Pointers or their families — a small fraction of those who served.
"A lot of them have left this world not knowing the impact they had," she says. "We’re looking at they’re in their 90s now. So, that’s why it’s so important that we reach as many people as we can because the onesies and twosies that are still living, they’re slipping away each day."
The Garlington family will receive the Congressional Gold Medal replica on February 25 at the High Point Museum. Also being honored are Private William Spencer Sr., Corporal James R. Burke Sr., Corporal Artra R. Gilmore, Sr., and Corporal Darious McCoy.