Angus Hardie Jamerson, one of the first African-American Marines to serve in World War II, died Tuesday at the age of 89. His daughter, Wendy Jamerson, confirmed his death to the Associated Press. She said he passed peacefully in his sleep. Known to friends and family as Jay, he would have celebrated his 90th birthday later this month.

In 1945, Jamerson was drafted and sent to Camp Lejeune in Jacksonville, N.C., to train at Montford Point. He received the Congressional Gold Medal in 2011 for his service. According to his obituary on, Jamerson was a student at Morehouse College in 1945 when he was drafted and assigned to the segregated training area for African-American recruits. The training area was established after President Franklin D. Roosevelt ordered the Marine Corps to begin accepting African-Americans.

The Montford Point recruits were not allowed to enter the main base of nearby Camp Lejeune unless accompanied by a white Marine. It wasn’t until during the Korean War that the Marine Corps became fully integrated.

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Before then, railroad tracks divided the white residents from the African-American troops. Jamerson and other surviving Montford Point Marines were awarded the Congressional Gold Medal in June 2012 for their forgotten historic role.

However,¬†Wendy Jamerson told the AP that her father he didn’t even know about the congressional award until he read about it in the newspaper. She said he appeared nonchalant, telling her: “Well, you know, they’re going to give me a medal.” But Jamerson’s pride was unmistakable.

His wife, Doris Jamerson, told the AP: “He did sleep with it for a couple of nights. We couldn’t get it off him.” She said that her husband wanted to serve his country and “had no idea of the significance of it at all.”

One of the first black Marines to serve in World War II has died just shy of his 90th birthday Melaine Boyd/Times Georgian via AP