Contact/Week Ahead Graphics

Email Updates

Print

Congressman Yarmuth Presents Montford Point Marines with Congressional Gold Medals

Congressman Yarmuth presented the Congressional Gold Medal to Sgt. Charles Lowery (left) and Cpl. Robert Baker.

LOUISVILLE — In a ceremony Wednesday afternoon, Congressman John Yarmuth (KY-3) presented two Louisville-based members of the Montford Point Marines – the first African-Americans in the U.S. armed forces – with the Congressional Gold Medal, the highest civilian award in the United States.

Corporal Robert Baker enlisted in Louisville in 1943. He is a Louisville native who served as a police non-commissioned officer in the Asiatic Pacific during World War II. Sergeant Charles Lowery also enlisted in Louisville in 1943. He is originally from Jeffersonville, Ind., and served as a food steward in the Asiatic Pacific during World War II.

“I am honored to present the Congressional Gold Medal to Louisville Montford Point Marines Corporal Baker and Sergeant Lowery,” Congressman Yarmuth said. “This award recognizes their service and sacrifice on behalf of our nation, and it signifies their lasting contributions in breaking down the barriers of segregation. The Montford Point Marines changed the course of history, and their story continues to inspire all of us in the fight for racial equality to do more.”

Private First Class Florian Meeks, a Kentuckian who served from 1943 to 1946, also received the award, although he was not present at the ceremony.

The three men are members of the Montford Point Marines, the first African-Americans to enlist in the United States Marine Corps. From 1942 to 1949, approximately 20,000 African-American recruits were trained at Montford Point, Camp Lejeune, North Carolina. More than 13,000 served overseas during the war. 

“It is an honor to be associated with these distinguished original members of the Montford Point Marine Association,” said Charles H. Stallard, President of the Louisville Chapter of the Montford Point Marine Association. “They have left a lasting legacy with the United States Marine Corps. They have paved the way for many African Americans in the Marine Corps through their courage and determination. It is a great honor to witness these original Montford Point Marines receiving the Congressional Gold Medal.”

On November 9, 2011, Congress approved legislation – cosponsored by Congressman Yarmuth – to award the Congressional Gold Medal to the Montford Point Marines. The bill was subsequently signed into law by President Obama on November 23, 2011.

The Congressional Gold Medal, bestowed by Congress, is — along with the Presidential Medal of Freedom — the highest civilian award in the United States. It is given to an individual who performs an outstanding deed or act of service in the security, prosperity, and national interest of the United States. 

The Montford Point Marines were awarded the Congressional Gold Medal at a ceremony in Washington, D.C., on June 27, 2012. Congressman Yarmuth hosted Wednesday’s ceremony to award the medals to the local Marines who were unable to attend the Washington ceremony.