MARINE CORPS LOGISTICS BASE ALBANY, Ga. --
Long-time employee’s widow accepts historical plaque in husband’s honor
Each year since 2005, the Marine Corps Logistics Command has honored one long-time civilian employee who has made significant contributions during his/her service to the federal government, by inducting them into LOGCOM’s Hall of Fame.
During the command’s employee recognition ceremony here Nov. 5, the late Obadiah Samuel Poe was inducted for the year 2009. He was one of the civilian employees who relocated here when the Marine Corps Supply Activity in Philadelphia, Pa., merged with the Marine Corps Supply Center in Albany, Ga.
Poe’s wife, Lucy, received his Hall of Fame award at the event which was held at Boyett Park.
Oby, as he was called throughout his life, received the honor posthumously for his individual and work-related awards and commendations throughout his many years of federal service. Poe was recognized as one of the pioneers in the development of many of the Marine Corps’ legacy logistics systems, according to the citation read at the ceremony.
He was further lauded for his positive impact as a supervisor and mentor for many employees as they transitioned their work and families to the southern culture of life in Albany, Ga., from Philadelphia, Pa.
In addition to his federal civilian service, Poe was an original member of the Montford Point Marines, a World War II veteran and hugely instrumental in establishing the Albany Toastmasters Chapter on base that still exists. He was referred to as a “trail blazer who made a difference.”
Lucy, echoed those sentiments following the ceremony, and she shared some of her most fond memories of the man she married in March of 1979.
“Oby was such a dear, dear man. He was the only person I’ve ever known who expressed loving their work the way he did,” she said.
“And as for the Marine Corps,” Lucy continued, “oh, don’t say one (bad) thing about the Marines. He was a Marine from the day he joined.”
Lucy mentioned that a number of things differed between being a black Marine during the Second World War and being a black Marine in 2009. She pointed out that during WWII, there were severe racial tensions in the Corps that deeply troubled Oby.
“Blacks couldn’t do this, they couldn’t do that,” she said. “In fact, when Oby said he wanted to be a radio operator, they laughed. Even the Marine who signed him up said, ‘Man, you’re not going to get that job’ (radio operator)!”
“But that didn’t stop Oby,” Lucy continued. “He was a very determined man and he accomplished pretty much whatever he set his mind to.”
Poe did, in fact, work as a radio operator while in the Corps; but even with his deep love for the Corps, he only spent three years in the military, according to Lucy. Following his honorable discharge from the Marine Corps as a corporal, he decided to go back to school to receive his Bachelor of Science degree in business administration from Temple University, she added.
When he was approached by then-Marine Corps Master Gunnery Sgt. Brooks Gray to form an organization to renew old relationships and share experiences of former comrades who received recruit training at Montford Point Camp, Camp Lejeune, New River, N.C., he was all for it. Not only was Poe instrumental in forming the organization, he became the organization’s first secretary. According to Lucy, he got together with Gray, who became the first president of the Montford Point Marines, and the two compiled all the names of the Black U.S. Marines who were involved in WWII.
“They wrote down names of every black Marine they could find and they sent out letters telling these guys they were going to organize a national reunion and possibly start an organization to fight the prejudice in this country,” Lucy said.
“They were sick of it (prejudice); these black Marines had been to war; they put their lives at risk, and they felt they did not have to take this anymore. And many of these black Marines were college graduates, or attending college to get their degrees. It was a requirement for blacks to be college graduates before they entered the Marine Corps back in those days,” she added.
When Gray and Poe set the date for the black WWII Marines to show up, the response was overwhelming.
“Oby said black Marines came from all over the country. There were so many of them that Philadelphia didn’t even have enough hotels to put them up in. And of course some of the hotel managers back then were prejudice, but that didn’t stop Oby and the organizers. Many people opened their houses to provide food and shelter to the attendees,” Lucy said.
Four hundred Marines from all over the country convened at the Adelphia Hotel in Philadelphia. Consequently the Montford Point Marine Association, Inc., was established as a non-profit veteran’s organization and was subsequently chartered in Pennsylvania in 1966.
Even though Poe was no longer an active duty Marine, his life direction didn’t take him far from the Corps. He later gained employment at the Marine Corps Supply Activity in Philadelphia, before he moved here with approximately 180 other federal workers when the activity officially deactivated July 1, 1976.
While in Albany, Ga., Poe worked in the Tech Support section with the Integrated Logistics Support Division (now Supply Management Center).
Poe retired from federal service after 39 years of service.
Lucy reported that his funeral in August of 2008 had mourners wall-to-wall in the small Saint Mark’s Episcopal Church to pay their respects.
“The church was packed; people were even standing outside - and it seemed they just didn’t mind,” she said. “I would guess there were about 500 people there.”
Poe, 85, died of bone cancer, his wife said.
“Don’t ask me how Obadiah Poe got bone cancer. He was as healthy as anyone could be, he took good care of himself, exercised all the time, ate well and he didn’t drink,” she said.
Lucy, who at 79 years young, said despite her age, she is going to get back into playing tennis because she “feels great” and she added that she probably will never get remarried.
“I don’t think there’s anyone who could measure up to Oby, he left some pretty big shoes to fill. He was quite a guy,” she said.