Cpl. Williams, one of only two Montford Point Marines who lives in the Huntsville area.
Montford Point was the training facility for African American Marines, despite the Executive Order integrating the military; the Marine Corp was still segregated. Williams got through his two months at Montford Point and went on to be a gunman.
“After boot camp I was a 90mm gun crewman–was an elevation man–and we had to get that gun started in so many seconds, not minutes but seconds,” Williams said.
Some 20,000 soldiers passed through the camp which has now been renamed Camp Johnson after Montford Point Marine Sgt. Major Gilbert “Hashmark” Johnson, but a select few were meant to change the course history. They would integrate the Marine Corp.
“Then it came to pass that they said you are going to Hadnot Point, which when they say Hadnot point that was everything I saw on television that the Marines were,” said Williams.
He became a member of the Military Police and was sent to the white’s only military instillation, unsure of what to expect and completely surprised by what he found.
“Oh it was a whole lot different. They had tile floors, steam heat, and washing machines,” he recalled, “we had concrete floors and wash boards.”
The men were initially met with resistance.
“The first night they came out and wanted to protest or something but when the Sergeant told [them] that we had live ammo everything was alright,” Williams laughed.
They persevered despite the pushback and officially integrated the Marine Corp. Montford Point was deactivated in 1949.
More from Cpl. Williams
“They endured, they went, and they excelled, served in WW2, did all the things that the nation was asking them to do and more,” said retired Lieutenant General Willie Williams.
Lt. General Williams says these men changed the lives of not only those they were serving with at the time, but the futures of Marines such as himself.
“I’m a firm believer that it’s because of them and the hard work that they did that I was able to have the career that I had,” he said.
While serving as Chief of Staff to General Conway in Washington D.C. Williams made it his mission to bring honor and recognition to the Montford Point Marines and in 2011 he saw his dream come to fruition, the Montford Point Marines were awarded the Congressional Gold Medal.
But back in Huntsville, Corporal Williams lay in a hospital bed, unable to make the journey to the nation’s capital to receive the honor he had more than earned decades before. So once he was discharged the Marines brought the medal to him instead.
Members of Kilo Battery, 2nd Battalion, and 14th Marines presented Corporal Williams his medal. Among those who attended was Gen. Dennis Via, commander of the AMC and the first African-American four star general of the Signal Corps, and his wife, Linda.
“I was surprised to meet a general in the Marine Corp because I had never met a general in the Marine Corps in all my life, not even an officer of my complexion.”
Lt. General Williams of all the things he accomplished in his career, helping to ensure that the Montford Point Marines received the recognition they deserved is one of the things he is most proud of.
“This was an effort by the US Marine Corp to embrace the legacy of the Montford Point Marine, a legacy for the service of a people who, at the time, the Marine Corp didn’t necessarily want them in the Marine Corp.”
Corporal Williams is now one of only two Montford point Marines living in Huntsville and has fallen ill. The Semper Fi Community Task Force, an organization that Lt. General Williams is actively involved with, is working to ensure that Cpl. Williams receives assistance that he needs.