By Joanna Clay Staff Writer
January 17, 2016
Simmons served for 22 years in three conflicts – World War II, Korea and Vietnam. He wanted to fight for his country, despite the prejudices that existed, his daughter said.
Jesse Simmons enlisted in the U.S. Marine Corps in 1943. Until then, he was ineligible because he was black.
Maj. Gen. Ronald Bailey, left, places a replica Congressional Gold Medal on
Montford Point Marine Jesse Simmons of Santa Ana during a commemorative ceremonyat Camp Pendleton in 2012. LEONARD ORTIZ, FILE PHOTO
He was sent for basic training at the segregated Montford Point training camp, outside Jacksonville, N.C. The white drill instructors urged the recruits to leave. The recruits couldn’t go into town for a meal. They’d be risking their lives in the Jim Crow-era South.
“My dad’s favorite saying was ‘continue to march.’ … ‘If someone spits on you, continue to march,’” daughter Angie Jacobs said. “And that’s what he did.”
Simmons died Thursday in Fountain Valley at age 92. It was just a few days shy of today’s holiday honoring Martin Luther King Jr.
A fixture on the Santa Ana family’s dining room wall was a plaque of the civil rights leader with the famous inscription, “I have a dream.” Simmons was inspired by King’s unwavering faith that change was possible, Jacobs said.
“He, unfortunately, had to live through it, but he got to see the change and see whites and blacks be together,” said Jacobs, 53.
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