Melvin Roger Scott Jr., 93, of Mays Landing, N.J., a Montford Point Marine and later a teacher in the Vineland public schools, died Thursday, June 6, at AtlantiCare Regional Medical Center, Pomona, N.J.
The Montford Point Marines were the first African Americans to break the color line in the Marine Corps. They flocked to enlist after President Franklin D. Roosevelt issued an executive order in June 1941 setting out fair employment practices for the Defense Department.
Mr. Scott was turned away from the corps several times, but kept trying. Once he was admitted, he and his fellow recruits were sent to segregated quarters in a swampy area of Montford Point, N.C. White recruits were housed at nearby Camp Lejeune.
Despite the bias of white officers who hoped the black recruits would quit, Mr. Scott and his comrades completed the military training in 1944, and many deployed to the Pacific during World War II. Although records do not indicate that he saw combat, he was honorably discharged in 1946 with the rank of corporal.
In 2012, Mr. Scott was among those honored with the Congressional Gold Medal in a ceremony in Washington recognizing them as among the first African Americans to serve in the Marine Corps. He was present, and afterward liked to wear a replica of the medal on his lapel.
“Although Mr. Scott received his Congressional Gold Medal with the main group in 2012, he didn’t until recently know we had an active Montford Point Marine chapter in Philadelphia,” said Joe Geeter, spokesperson for the national Montford Point Marine Association.
“Once he found out, he rarely missed a meeting,” Geeter said. “He not only enjoyed the camaraderie of his peers, but also the assurance that his and their legacy will live on. He is already missed.”
Born in Washington to Anna B. and Melvin R. Scott Sr., Mr. Scott graduated from Dunbar High School. With his Marine service behind him, he attended Wilberforce University in Ohio on a football scholarship and earned a bachelor’s degree in elementary education.
After graduating, Mr. Scott joined the Army as a second lieutenant and was assigned to be a training officer. He served in the Korean War, and was awarded the Combat Infantry Badge and a Bronze Star.
In 1957, he moved to Vineland and took a job with the Vineland schools as a sixth-grade teacher. He was the first African American man hired to be a teacher by the Vineland Board of Education. He was named Teacher of the Year in 1964 and worked as director of federal programs for the schools until his retirement in 1998.
Mr. Scott was a longtime member of Trinity A.M.E. Church in Bridgeton, N.J., where he was a member of the trustee board and the men’s chorus. He also helped with the men’s breakfast.
He believed in celebrating the joy in life. His favorite Bible passage was Psalm 100, which begins in the King James Version: “Make a joyful noise unto the Lord, all ye lands. Serve the Lord with gladness: come before his presence with singing.”
He married Alease Dora Scott in 1950. She died in September 2018. He is survived by two nephews and a niece.
A visitation from 10 to 11 a.m. Friday, June 14, will be followed by an 11:30 a.m. funeral service at Trinity A.M.E. Church, 1107 Bridgeton Millville Pike, Bridgeton. Interment will be later in Sewickley (Pa.) Cemetery.