The Nation’s Largest African American Video Oral History Collection Mobile search icon Mobile close search icon
Advanced Biography Search
Mobile navigation icon Close mobile navigation icon

Lenon Lathan

Montford Point Marine Lenon Lathan was born on July 19, 1926 in Sturgis, Mississippi. He was the tenth oldest twin of three sets of twins and fifteen other siblings born of Oscar Lathan and Mary Frazier. Lathan grew up in Sturgis and attended Paul Lawrence Dunbar High School in Mobile, Alabama where he played baseball and basketball as a young man. Lathan later enrolled in continuing education classes and studied Spanish at the City Colleges of Chicago. He is also a graduate of Washburn Trade School in Chicago where he later worked as a union pipefitter.

Lathan enlisted in the U.S. Marine Corps in Starkville, Mississippi in September of 1944 and as a private at DHIRS, Jackson, Mississippi. He trained at Camp Lejeune, North Carolina with the 43rd Marine Depot Company for one year and then was promoted to private first class (PFC) with the 25th Marching Depot Company. Lathan deployed to the Pacific Theater during World War II on board the USS DOROTHEA. He served under Second Lieutenant Kenneth I. Tuttle at Guam, Marianas Islands. In addition, he served aboard the USS GENERAL W.C. MITCHELL at Guam, Marianas Island. Lathan received an Honorable Discharge in 1948. In 1987, he retired from Local Union #597 Chicago Pipe Fitters and became an entrepreneur opening a bar and lounge on 12th Street & Wabash Avenue in Chicago, Illinois.

Lathan is a member of Grant Memorial A.M.E. Church, and has traveled to forty-eight of the fifty states and has visited five continents. As a veteran of the U.S. Marine Corps, the “Honor Flight Chicago” selected him to join other veterans on a trip to Washington, D.C. to see the WWII Memorial built in their honor.

Lathan was married to Mildred Barron for nearly fifty years before her passing in 1996. They had nine children, two of which preceded their mother in death. Together with his wife, Lathan raised his children in Chicago’s Lincoln Park area; and all seven children either graduated from private high schools or universities. He also has twelve grandchildren and five great-grandchildren.

Lathan passed away on January 27, 2018.

Montford Point Marine Lenon Lathan was interviewed by The HistoryMakers on August 20, 2013.

Accession Number

A2013.191

Sex

Male

Interview Date

8/20/2013

Last Name

Lathan

Maker Category
Marital Status

Widower

Schools

Liberty Hill

Gulfside High School

Dunbar

Washburne Trade School

Wilbur Wright College

Loop Junior College

Search Occupation Category
First Name

Lenon

Birth City, State, Country

Sturgis

HM ID

LAT05

Favorite Season

Summer

State

Mississippi

Favorite Vacation Destination

Bahamas

Favorite Quote

Good gosh.

Bio Photo
Speakers Bureau Region State

Illinois

Birth Date

7/19/1926

Birth Place Term
Speakers Bureau Region City

Chicago

Country

United States

Favorite Food

Fish, Beef, Pork, Salad

Death Date

1/27/2018

Short Description

Montford pointe marine Lenon Lathan (1926 - 2018 ) served in the Pacific Theater during World War II with the 243rd Marine Depot Company and the 25th Marching Depot Company.

Employment

Campbell Soup

U.S. Steel

Favorite Color

Blue

Timing Pairs
0,0:3456,39:4509,95:9986,181:20565,366:30000,479:35391,511:94260,1220:103330,1363:133724,1590:134472,1605:136172,1694:150328,1831:159130,1947$0,0:2540,24:4070,47:14903,212:24638,337:25220,344:48330,606:50031,641:52380,707:74354,896:74956,905:75300,910:79488,949:84108,1050:91278,1087:97149,1162:100475,1209:106990,1313:116430,1440:127925,1546:128375,1554:159080,1963
DAStories

Tape: 1 Story: 1 - Slating of Lenon Lathan's interview

Tape: 1 Story: 2 - Lenon Lathan lists his favorites

Tape: 1 Story: 3 - Lenon Lathan describes his mother's family background

Tape: 1 Story: 4 - Lenon Lathan describes his visits to his maternal grandparents' home

Tape: 1 Story: 5 - Lenon Lathan describes his father's family background

Tape: 1 Story: 6 - Lenon Lathan talks about his parents' marriage and his siblings

Tape: 1 Story: 7 - Lenon Lathan describes his childhood home and his family's farm

Tape: 1 Story: 8 - Lenon Lathan describes his childhood neighborhood in Sturgis, Mississippi

Tape: 1 Story: 9 - Lenon Lathan talks about his relationship with his mother, and what he learned from his parents

Tape: 1 Story: 10 - Lenon Lathan talks about attending school in Sturgis, Mississippi

Tape: 1 Story: 11 - Lenon Lathan talks about going to church at Liberty Hill Methodist Church in Sturgis, Mississippi

Tape: 1 Story: 12 - Lenon Lathan talks about his school teachers at Liberty Hill Methodist Church in Sturgis, Mississippi, and his experience in elementary school

Tape: 1 Story: 13 - Lenon Lathan talks about attending school on the Gulf Coast and in Mobile, Alabama, and joining the military

Tape: 1 Story: 14 - Lenon Lathan talks about his relationship with his older brother, John Lathan

Tape: 1 Story: 15 - Lenon Lathan describes his earliest childhood memory

Tape: 1 Story: 16 - Lenon Lathan describes the dynamics between his twin siblings, and between him and his twin brother

Tape: 2 Story: 1 - Lenon Lathan talks about his older sister, Ceola Lathan

Tape: 2 Story: 2 - Lenon Lathan talks about the racial climate in the town of Sturgis, Mississippi, and his unpleasant experience at one of the town's stores

Tape: 2 Story: 3 - Lenon Lathan talks about the nesting habits of chickens and turkey

Tape: 2 Story: 4 - Lenon Lathan talks about his family's traditions, and playing at home with his siblings

Tape: 2 Story: 5 - Lenon Lathan talks about his childhood desire to visit big cities in the U.S.

Tape: 2 Story: 6 - Lenon Lathan talks about experiencing segregation as a child in Sturgis, Mississippi

Tape: 2 Story: 7 - Lenon Lathan describes his experience in high school in Waveland, Mississippi

Tape: 2 Story: 8 - Lenon Lathan talks about Waveland, Mississippi, and his school trips to New Orleans, Louisiana

Tape: 2 Story: 9 - Lenon Lathan talks about his involvement in sports and drama in high school

Tape: 2 Story: 10 - Lenon Lathan talks about attending high school in Mobile, Alabama and working at a welding shipyard

Tape: 2 Story: 11 - Lenon Lathan talks about being drafted into the U.S. Marine Corps during World War II

Tape: 2 Story: 12 - Lenon Lathan describes his initial experience in the U.S. Marines

Tape: 3 Story: 1 - Lenon Lathan talks about African American Marines at Montford Point, North Carolina in the early 1940s

Tape: 3 Story: 2 - Lenon Lathan describes his experience at boot camp with the U.S. Marines at Montford Point, North Carolina in the early 1940s

Tape: 3 Story: 3 - Lenon Lathan describes his training at boot camp with the U.S. Marines at Montford Point, North Carolina in the early 1940s

Tape: 3 Story: 4 - Lenon Lathan talks about meeting his wife and getting married

Tape: 3 Story: 5 - Lenon Lathan talks about his U.S. Marine Corps advanced training in San Diego, California, and his assignment to Guam

Tape: 3 Story: 6 - Lenon Lathan describes his assignment with the 54th Marine Battalion in Guam, and his thoughts on war

Tape: 3 Story: 7 - Lenon Lathan talks about leaving the U.S. Marines, working at a steel mill, and his fellow platoon members

Tape: 3 Story: 8 - Lenon Lathan talks about his children

Tape: 3 Story: 9 - Lenon Lathan talks about working at Campbell's Soup, and going to pipefitting school

Tape: 3 Story: 10 - Lenon Lathan talks about his life and employment after leaving the U.S. Marines in 1948

Tape: 4 Story: 1 - Lenon Lathan talks about his experience at Montford Point, North Carolina

Tape: 4 Story: 2 - Lenon Lathan talks about his experience at Montford Point, North Carolina

Tape: 4 Story: 3 - Lenon Lathan talks about experiencing discrimination at Montford Point, North Carolina, and training with dynamite bombs

Tape: 4 Story: 4 - Lenon Lathan talks about becoming a licensed pipefitter in Chicago, Illinois

Tape: 4 Story: 5 - Lenon Lathan talks about buying a home in the Lincoln Park neighborhood of Chicago, Illinois

Tape: 4 Story: 6 - Lenon Lathan talks about the assassinations of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and President John F. Kennedy, and his thoughts about the Vietnam War

Tape: 4 Story: 7 - Lenon Lathan describes his family's life in the Lincoln Park neighborhood of Chicago, Illinois

Tape: 4 Story: 8 - Lenon Lathan describes his children's schooling in Chicago, Illinois, and his insistence on sending them to private schools

Tape: 4 Story: 9 - Lenon Lathan talks about his children's employment

Tape: 4 Story: 10 - Lenon Lathan talks about his travels after his retirement

Tape: 4 Story: 11 - Lenon Lathan talks about receiving the Gold Congressional Medal of Honor as a Montford Point Marine

Tape: 5 Story: 1 - Lenon Lathan talks about running a cocktail lounge for six years

Tape: 5 Story: 2 - Lenon Lathan reflects upon his life

Tape: 5 Story: 3 - Lenon Lathan talks about living at the Cabrini-Green public housing project in Chicago, Illinois, in the 1950s and buying a home on the North Side

Tape: 5 Story: 4 - Lenon Lathan shares his message to today's youth

Tape: 5 Story: 5 - Lenon Lathan describes his hopes and concerns for the African American community, and reflects upon the election of President Barack Obama

Tape: 5 Story: 6 - Lenon Lathan shares how he would like to be remembered

Tape: 6 Story: 1 - Lenon Lathan describes his photographs

DASession

1$1

DATape

2$4

DAStory

6$11

DATitle
Lenon Lathan talks about experiencing segregation as a child in Sturgis, Mississippi
Lenon Lathan talks about receiving the Gold Congressional Medal of Honor as a Montford Point Marine
Transcript
So going back to the fact that you and your brothers [Lathan's older brother, John Lathan] had talked about wanting to leave your hometown [Sturgis, Mississippi], tell me why it is that you wanted to leave?$$Because of the segregation. And I, I was just telling him and he said and what do you wanna be? I said I wanna be a Pullman porter, porter on the train. I would just ride and ride until I got to a city that I liked, and I'd just get off there and that's where I would stay. That's what I would do. That was my dream.$$And so you say you wanted to leave because of the segregation, but do you have another story about what was bad about segregation, as far as you're concerned?$$Well, everything. I remember one day my brother and I, we lived about a mile out of the village, and my brother and I were walking along the, the, the highway, and this white man stopped in his car. My brother said, "Hey." And he stopped and he backed all the way back to where we were. And he said, "I'm gonna have to take him with me the way you hollerin'." And so he, my brother, he said get in. So he got in and I went to get in too and he said (unclear)--I went to go get in the car too, so he said, "Will you make sure that he never holler at another white man?" And I said "Yes, sir." And then we walked in the woods all the way home.$$Okay.$$And he said, he said, "I'm gonna let him go but would you see that he never holler at another white man?" And I just said, "Yes, sir" and walked away, walked back through the woods home again, scared to walk on the highway.$$So a lot of your years you were just afraid of white people, is that correct?$$Yes. And then my brother always said, he said when I left to go to high school we promised--I promised if I'd ever leave I was gonna take him with me. Then he said--he tells me that now. He--like he said, "You left me. I still owe you one. You left me there." (Laughter).$$Okay (laughter).$So now let's talk about some of the awards for being a Montford Point Marine [first African Americans to serve in the U.S. Marine Corps].$$Well, I got the Gold Congressional Medal of Honor--$$Well, tell me about that. How did you first hear about it?$$Well, I heard about it--my son-in-law's cousin worked for the Marine Corps. And it hasn't been that long ago. And she was telling us about it. And so my kids got so excited you would think they were getting the medal, not me.$$And so, I mean, were, were you excited?$$Well, they, they, they won me over. Yes, I got excited.$$What were your thoughts about it? Did you think well it's about time or did you think you'd never see an award for--$$No, I never thought I'd get the award. No, I never felt that 'cause I, I had never thought about it, not really. I just knew it wasn't gonna happen to me.$$Okay. Okay and so have you--is--was that the only time that you were given an award, the Congressional Medal? Did you go to Washington [District of Columbia] for something else?$$I went to Washington on the--as a flight--it's called Flight Chicago. It's an honor, called the Honor Flight. I went to Washington, D.C. for a day.$$Okay and what was that like?$$That was really exciting. So I had lots of relatives live around the Washington area. The first thing they told us when we got on the plane, they'll be calling your folks telling them to meet you nowhere (laughter). That kind of killed me then (unclear). So I was there a whole day and I had a, I had a staff sergeant to push me around in a wheelchair. All--every time I got off a bus he was there with the wheelchair to push me where I wanted to go. We saw, we saw most of the interesting things to see in Washington, really. We didn't see everything but we saw most of it. And one place I really was excited--was the Smithsonian and the [National] Air and Space Museum. Those two, I would love to go back and spend more time there.