Angus Hardie Jamerson, one of the first black U.S. Marines, has died at age 89, the Associated Press reported. Jamerson, who went by Jay among friends and family, was a member of the so-called Montford Point Marines, the first wave of black Marines who served in the U.S. military after President Franklin Roosevelt directed the Marine Corps to accept black recruits in 1941.
Jamerson was drafted in 1945, while he was a student at Morehouse College. He his fellow black Marines trained at Montford Point, a segregated training facility outside of Camp Lejeune in North Carolina.
Doris Jamerson, Jamerson's wife, told the AP that black recruits lived in "wooden huts," and weren't allowed into Camp Lejeune without a "white escort."
Jamerson served in the Marines for 18 months and left in 1946, going on to get a degree in law and start a company.
The Marines would not be ordered to officially desegregate until 1949.
In 2011, Congress voted to give the Congressional Gold Medal to the surviving Montford Point Marines — and Jamerson attended a special banquet to officially accept his medal.
His wife said he slept with his Congressional medal for "a couple of nights" after receiving it. "We couldn't get it off him," she said.