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Passing of a Marine pioneer

By GySgt. Carmen Y. Cordoba | | October 13, 2000

Retired Master Gunnery Sergeant Brooks E. Gray suffered a massive stroke on Friday, October 6, and died Sunday October 8. For some, these words may simply mean the passing of another Marine who served his country, lived and died. But when referring to Brooks Gray, his time spent as a Marine and the life that followed laid the groundwork  for success for many men and women who today call themselves Marine.

Born in Greenville, S.C. in 1925 Brooks Gray was among the first group of African Americans to enlist during World War II. Attached to the 52nd Defense battalion, Gray served on the Marshall and Marianas Islands in the South Pacific during the war. He was discharged following World War II.

During the Korean conflict Gray was called back to active duty as a reserve corporal.

In 1948 Gray was instrumental in establishing the Pennadelphia Detachment of the Marine Corps League, a nonprofit veterans association organized for Marines of all ranks and eras. The group sponsors the Young Marines of Philadelphia as well as the Pennadelphia Scholarship Foundation. Gray served as an advisor to every national president of the League.

Gray was among the first African Americans to serve as a Marine Corps recruiter from 1963 to 1967. In September of 1965, he and several other Marines and former Marines established the Montford Point Marine Association in Philadelphia, and Gray became the organizations first national president. The Montford Point Marine Association is a nonprofit veteran's organization, established to perpetuate the legacy of the first African Americans who entered the Marine Corps from 1942 to 1949, at Montford Point Camp, New River, North Carolina. The organization has grown to 26 chapters across the United States and Japan.

Gray retired from active duty in 1969.

At the 1999 national convention of the Montford Point Marines, Gray was inducted into the Montford Point Hall of fame.

A consultant on numerous news articles and films depicting African Americans in the military, Gray was in the process of putting together a production of his own. This year's Annual Heritage Ball will be held November 10, in his hometown of Philadelphia.  Gray envisioned many Marines and Marine organizations coming home to where our Marine Corps was born to celebrate the 225th anniversary of our Corps. Former Assistant Commandant, General Terrance Dake, will be the guest of honor, and there will be over 20 Medal of Honor recipients in attendance. Through his personal efforts, this year's celebration should be a resounding success and a fitting opportunity for those who knew him or were touched by his deeds to celebrate an exceptional man and Marine.