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Alabama Marine veteran who helped integrate Marines dies at 92

Folded flag resting on a headstone. (MaxPixel/Released/TNS)

Raymond Williams, a member of the first U.S. Marines unit to accept African Americans during World War II, died Sunday in Birmingham at age 92, said his son, Kevin Williams.

A corporal in the Montford Point Marines, Raymond Williams lived in Huntsville until recently moving to Birmingham to live with his daughter Felicia and son-in-law Buck Johnson, the former University of Alabama and NBA basketball star.

The all-black Montford Point Marines are known by that name because they were trained at Montford Point, N.C., separate from white Marines at a time when the Marine Corps was still segregated.

In 2012, the 19,000 Montford Point Marines who served from 1942 until the segregated unit was disbanded in 1949 were awarded the collective Congressional Gold Medal, an honor approved by Congress and signed into law by President Barack Obama in 2011.

Williams enlisted as the war ended, in 1946, and did most of his service at the Naval Ammunition Depot Marine Base in Earle, New Jersey, where he served as a military policeman.

He made the most of his two years of service, returning to his hometown of New Orleans in 1952, turning his GI Bill funding into business and secondary education degrees from Xavier University.

He later taught in the New Orleans school system, then went to work for NASA, overseeing the space command center at Michoud Assembly Facility, according to a 2015 article in the Redstone Rocket, the Redstone Arsenal base newspaper. He was also an entrepreneur in the grocery business.

He moved to Huntsville in 1999, and — having been ill when President Obama held a ceremony for the Montford Point Marines in 2011 — was given his Congressional Gold Medal by the Marine unit in Huntsville in 2012, and honored by Army Materiel Command Gen. Dennis Via for his service in 2015.

Williams had seven children, all of whom graduated college.


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