Medal marks historic service of Rock Hill’s Plair, fellow black Marines

dworthington@heraldonline.comJuly 9, 2013 

Old habits die hard for Bobby Plair of Rock Hill.

Plair, 86, a former Marine private first class and a World War II veteran, snapped to attention Tuesday before Marine Maj. Gen. Cornell A. Wilson Jr. and remained at attention as Wilson presented him a replica of Congressional Gold Medal for his service as a Montford Point Marine.

Plair continued to stand at attention as the storied history of the first blacks to serve in the Marines was read. Then, with skills learned on the Montford Point parade ground, he did an about face, returning to his seat.

Before Plair sat down, Marine Sgt. Aljawon Norman faced him and snapped salute in respect. It wasn’t until . Norman quietly walked off that Plair relaxed.

Plair served 14 months in the Marine Corps. He was one of 20,000 black Marines who endured racism and segregation at the Montford Point facility in North Carolina. When ordered to accept black recruits, the Marine Corps set up a separate training facility for them.

Before war’s end, black Marines had proved themselves, Wilson said, “changing the face of the Corps.”

James T. Averhart, president of the Montford Point Marine Association, said Tuesday’s ceremony was not about black history, but about American history.

The ceremony was coordinated by the Veterans of Foreign War Post 3746 of Rock Hill and held at the VFW Post 2889. In addition to honoring Plair, the Montford Point Marine Association swore in its latest chapter located in Charlotte. The first black Marine to report to Montford Point was Howard Perry of Charlotte.

Marines past and present came to honor Plair, including Sgt. Tehmal Farington of Charlotte.

“It’s humbling,” said Farington. “Marines such as Plair made this possible for all of us.”

ARCHIVE VIDEO BELOW

Plair talks about his service in the segregated Marine Corps.

Don Worthington 803-329-4066

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