A Segregated Military | Palmetto Scene


B.S. Plair of Rock Hill, South Carolina, served for the Montford Point Marines in 1945, until he was honorably discharged in 1946. The Montford Point Marines were based in Camp Lejeune, North Carolina, and were the first African American Marines to serve in the military, following an executive order from President Franklin Roosevelt in 1941 that required the armed services to recruit and enlist African Americans.

B.S. Plair describes his segregated military experience as “rough” but, in the end, he “still enjoyed it.” He explains, “I know I got to do it, so I’m satisfied and I’ll do it and be satisfied. And I think that’ll extend your life for a while…not worrying about things. Go ahead and do it. That’s my attitude.”

In 2012, B.S. Plair was awarded the Congressional Gold Medal, which is the nation’s highest civilian honor. He says he was “elated” to receive the award because he didn’t “do anything special.” He explains that the award was “just for being segregated” and not having access to all that they should have. He says, “That was showing us that we did good to do what we did at the time.”

B.S. Plair has a passion for music and, during his spare time in the military, he would practice his clarinet or saxophone. He has since instilled his love for music in his children. One of his children, Bobby Plair, Jr., is now a counselor at York Technical College in Rock Hill. Bobby Plair, Jr. directs Black History Through Music, an annual educational event held at the college. B.S. Plair has participated for “about 20 years, when they started this Black History program for music.”

Of his involvement in Black History Through Music, Bobby Plair, Jr. says, “I live in this community and this is one of their several things that I do every year that I make nothing off of. It’s one of the things I feel, if I live in a community, I need to give something back because you can’t take and take and take and never give anything back, I don’t think the world is made that way.”

Both B.S. Plair and his son, Bobby Plair, Jr., believe the event is important because of its educational value. B.S. Plair explains, “Everybody needs to be educated. We say, you can’t get enough education.”

Bobby Plair, Jr. speaks of his father and his military experience. He says, “Every once in a while, things would come up when different things happen in society, and you kind of hear things, you see things on the news, and every once in a while he’d just mention something about some of the treatment that wasn’t quite equitable and kind of let you know where things came from, so that you know, even though things might not be perfect now, they’re a lot better than they were then, but we’ve still got a ways to go.”