Lucius H. Snowten, Montford Marine

Posted: November 28, 2013

Lucius Horace Snowten, 92, of Philadelphia, a member of the Montford Point Marines, the first African Americans to break the color line in that branch of the armed forces, died Tuesday, Nov. 19, of complications from a stroke at the VNA Hospice of Philadelphia.

Mr. Snowten served in the Marines from Jan. 21, 1944, to Feb. 14, 1946, when he was honorably discharged with the rank of private first class, his family said.

He had enlisted following President Franklin D. Roosevelt's executive order in 1941 allowing black soldiers to serve in the armed forces.

But while white soldiers trained at traditional boot camp facilities in Parris Island, S.C., and San Diego, the black Marines were separately trained at Montford Point Camp in North Carolina.

The lodging was huts made of corrugated metal on land infested with snakes and mosquitoes.

"They had green huts with no toilets. They had to walk up the street for the toilet. No running water," said Joe Geeter, national public relations officer for the Montford Point Marine Association, a group that memorializes the black Marines.

On Nov. 23, 2011, President Obama signed a bill bestowing the Congressional Gold Medal on the Marines as a group for their World War II service. The medal was presented June 27 and 28, 2012, in Washington.

Mr. Snowten told relatives that becoming one of the first African American Marines was a tough challenge, and that the congressional honor was "something he never thought would happen in his lifetime," his family said in a statement.

Born in Decatur, Ga., Mr. Snowten lost his mother when he was 2. He was raised by Henry Calvin Chandler, his maternal grandfather.

He married Mabel Chapel. The family moved north and settled in Philadelphia, where Mr. Snowten worked as a cook, a baker, an upholsterer, a masseur, and a supervisor at the Water Department.

After retiring in 1976, Mr. Snowten hunted, fished, gardened, and renovated his home. He became active in New Bethel A.M.E. Church of Germantown, serving as usher, trustee, and treasurer.

He volunteered for a funeral home, insisting that "staying actively motivated was the secret to longevity," his family said.

He loved doing stand-up comedy for church groups and other social functions. He and his wife traveled widely. She died in 1998.

If asked, Mr. Snowten was quick with advice. It typically came with an interesting fact or story.

Surviving are a son, Derek; daughters ReneƩ, Cynthia, and Valerie; six grandchildren; and five great-grandchildren.

Funeral services were Tuesday, Nov. 26.


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