An act to grant a congressional gold medal collectively to the
Montford Point Marines was signed into law by President Barack Obama
The bill, H.R. 2447, was introduced in the House of
Representatives by Rep. Corrine Brown, D-Fla., on July 7. It passed
the House on a vote of 422-0 on Oct. 25, and passed the Senate without
amendment by unanimous consent Nov. 9. The measure was presented to
President Obama for his signature Nov. 15.
A related bill, S. 1527, was introduced in the Senate by Sen. Kay
Hagan, D-N.C., on Sept. 8.
The congressional gold medal is — along with the Presidential
Medal of Freedom — the highest civilian award. Legislation authorizing
congressional gold medals generally includes provisions for duplicate
bronze medals to be made available for purchase from the Mint.
The findings section of the bill relates the history of the
Montford Point Marines in the framework of President Franklin D.
Roosevelt’s Executive Order No. 8802 — signed June 25, 1941 — which
established the Fair Employment Practices Commission and opened the
doors to the first African-Americans to enlist in the United States
The first black Marine recruits were trained at Camp Montford
Point, near the New River in Jacksonville, N.C. On Aug. 26, 1942,
Howard P. Perry of Charlotte, N.C., was the first black private to set
foot on Montford Point. Overall, 19,168 blacks served in the Marine
Corps during World War II including some 2,000 black Marines who saw
combat during the seizure of Okinawa in the Ryuku Islands.
Rep. Brown said in a Nov. 10 statement: “Indeed, this Resolution
recognizes the service and sacrifice of the Montford Point Marines,
and clearly demonstrates that today’s United States Marine Corps is an
excellent opportunity for advancement for persons of all races.
Clearly, the original Montford Point Marines serve as a prime example
of this, and set the bar very high for future Marines.”
Sen. Hagan issued a Nov. 9 press release where she stated: “These
men, who were based out of North Carolina in WWII, served our country
with courage and dedication, even in the face of discrimination and
intolerance. There is no better way to celebrate the Marine Corps’
birthday and Veterans Day than by honoring these men for their service
and sacrifice and granting them the recognition that is 50 years overdue.”
Alice Paul, again
On Sept. 20, Rep. Joe Baca, D-Calif., introduced H.R. 2970, a bill
that would award a congressional gold medal in recognition of Alice
Paul’s role in the women’s suffrage movement and in advancing equal
rights for women.
The findings section of the bill states, “Alice Paul dedicated her
life to securing suffrage and equal rights for all women and, as the
founder of the National Woman’s Party, she was instrumental in the
passage of the 19th Amendment to the United States Constitution.” That
amendment granted women the right to vote. In 1923, Paul would draft
the Equal Rights Amendment and fought for its passage until her death
A related bill, S. 1745, was introduced in the Senate on Oct. 20,
by Sen. Robert Menendez, D-N.J.
Rep. Baca had introduced a similar bill in 2009 that attracted 139
cosponsors, but never made it out of the House Committee on Financial
Services. Similar unsuccessful legislation for a gold medal honoring
Alice Paul was also introduced in the House and Senate in 2007 during
the 110th Congress and also in the 109th Congress.
On Sept. 21, Sen. Kirsten E. Gillbrand, D-N.Y., introduced S.
1591, which would authorize a congressional gold medal for Raoul
Wallenberg in recognition of his achievements and heroic actions
during the Holocaust. Wallenberg, acting under the War Refugee Board,
is credited with saving an estimated 100,000 of the 120,000 Jews in
Hungary that survived World War II. The bill states, “Indeed, many
American Jews can directly or indirectly attribute their own lives to
Raoul Wallenberg’s actions during World War II.”
That same day in the House, Rep. Gregory W. Meeks, D-N.Y.,
introduced H.R. 3001, a companion bill titled “Raoul Wallenberg
Centennial Celebration Act.” In a Sept. 21 press release, Rep. Meeks
states, “The heroic rescue of Hungarian Jews by Raoul Wallenberg
during one of the darkest hours of human history exemplifies his
outstanding spirit and dedication to humanity.” ■