JANS - Louis Turner, Jr., business manager of the Salt and Pepper Men's Club, along with 400 surviving members of the Montford Point Marines, was recognized by Congress after receiving the Congressional Gold Medal - the highest honor for a civilian in the nation.
A Congressional Gold Medal is an award bestowed by the United States Congress and is, along with the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the highest civilian award in the United States. The decoration is awarded to an individual who performs an outstanding deed or act of service to the security, prosperity, and national interest of the United States. American citizenship is not a requirement.
The Montford Point Marines were the first black Americans to enlist in the U.S. Marine Corps after President Franklin Roosevelt issued an Executive Order establishing the Fair Employment Practices Commission in June 1941. The recruits trained at Camp Montford Point near Jacksonville, North Carolina. More than 19,000 Black Marines trained at Montford Point Camp, a facility set up exclusively for blacks during World War II.
Louis Turner, Jr., joined the United States Marine on June 18, 1943. He served in the Pacific Theater. He was eighteen years old and married. Turner trained at Camp Lejeune's Montford Point, a segregated unit. His white counterpart trained at Paris Island.
The Salt and Pepper Men's Club will pay homage to its business manager at its next regular meeting (July 23, 2012). Louis Turner, Jr., is a longtime member of the Salt and Pepper Men's Club.
Turner attended Lanier High School. Ebony Magazine Editor, Lenone Bennett was his classmate.
Upon returning from WWII, Turner became a plaster. He received his training at Tougaloo College. He joined the Plaster and Cement Masonry Union. He is still a member of that union. He will be receiving his 60 year gold card this year. Turner served as a union official for many years and is still affiliated with the Union in that capacity.
Turner said there were other African Americans who joined the Marines from Jackson, Mississippi, during WWII. To the best of his memory: Emily Jackson, Cleveland Williams, Zachary Taylor, James Rundles, Johnnie Jones and Dr. John Peoples joined the Marines and trained at Camp Lejeune. None of the Jackson, Mississippi recipients were able to travel to Washington, D.C. to receive their congressional Gold Medal. However, in the very near future, a Marine Envoy will visit Jackson, Mississippi, and present the Congressional Gold Medal to these honorable men. A press conference will be scheduled.
The American Legion and the VFW plan a future joint press conference to honor this great American, Louis Turner, Jr., a Marine.
There is a saying that "Marines build men". With regards to the Montford Marines of World War II from Jackson, Mississippi, the "saying" is absolutely correct. John Peoples became president of Jackson State College. Johnny Jones became an executive with the Security Life Insurance Company, a position he held for many years. James Rundles became an editor, a city and a stale official, and a radio personality. It was partly through James Rundles' efforts that the memory of the Montford Marine was kept alive. His "Up and Down Farish Street" article covered the story every year for many years. By the way, James Rundles still writes the "Up and Down Farish Street" article for the Jackson Advocate.
Turner is a member of the Central United Methodist Church, located in the historic Farish Street community, where he has served as a trustee for some 58 years. He is also a member of the American Legion. He has been a member for over 50 years.