Old Town Rock Hill, South Carolina
OF THE MONTFORD MARINES
LOCAL HEROES WITHIN OUR COMMUNITY
In 1941, as the nation was preparing for war, President Franklin Roosevelt issued an executive order that required the armed services, for the first time, to recruit and enlist African Americans. Training for African American Marines began in 1942 at strictly segregated Montford Point, at Camp Lejeune, North Carolina. The recruits suffered all the indignities of the segregated society of that era, including exclusion from other parts of Camp Lejeune and restrictions on available jobs and advancement. The Montford Marines ultimately proved the ability of African Americans to perform at a high level in the Marine Corps. In 1948 President Harry S. Truman ordered the desegregation of the military and in 1949 Montford Point was closed and African American Marines henceforth were trained alongside white recruits. During the Korean War, the Marine Corps became fully integrated.
The Montford Marines were pioneers of social change within the US military, helping to break down the walls of segregation and the barriers preventing African American from full equality as Marines and as US citizens.
Mr. Bobby Plair, Sr. was born in Rock Hill, South Carolina on March 22, 1927. He graduated from Friendship High School in Rock Hill, South Carolina in 1945. Then, at the age of 18, he was drafted into the military and trained as a Marine at Montford Point. He was assigned to serve at Saipan, an island in the Pacific, and was there at the end of World War II. He was honorably discharged from the Marines in 1946.
In 2012 the 368 surviving Montford Marines were awarded the Congressional Gold Medal, the nation’s highest civilian honor. Bobby Plair received his medal at a special ceremony in Rock Hill in July 2013.
Following his military service, Bobby Plair earned a degree from North Carolina A & T University and began his career as a teacher, band director and musician. After college, he served schools in Great Falls, Chester, Fort Mill and Rock Hill. He was the leader of the acclaimed band “Plair” that entertained thousands of people at events throughout the region.