OLIVER REESE LUMPKIN
July 21st, 2005
Sergeant Oliver Lumpkin was born in Richland, Georgia. He joined the Corps in 1946 and served with the 51st Defense Battalion in the Ellice Islands. After leaving the Corps, he attended Ft. Valley State College and taught at Savannah, Georgia. He obtained a master's degree from Tuskegee University and his doctorate from Ohio State University, after which he served on the faculty of Clemson University for fifteen years. He resides in Savannah, Georgia.
INTERVIEWER: Mr. Lumpkin, these are basic questions that we've asked every Montford Point Marine that we've interviewed. Okay? Um, what, uh, what I want you to do right now is state your name, your full name, and today's date. Well, let's just start by you your stating your name.
OLIVER REESE LUMPKIN: Oliver Reese Lumpkin.
INTERVIEWER: Today, spell that please.
OLIVER REESE LUMPKIN: O-L-I-V-E-R, Oliver, R-E-E-S-E, Reese, Lumpkin, L-U-M-P-K-I-N. And today's date is July 21st, 1905, I mean, uh, 2005.
INTERVIEWER: Okay, uh, will you please tell us, Sir, a little bit about your background, before joining the Marines, which is what you're about to do. Before joining the Marines, uh, where you're from, and a little bit about your education. (TECHNICAL)
OLIVER REESE LUMPKIN: I'd like to say that, uh, I'm from everywhere. I was born in Richland, Georgia, Richland Stuart County, Georgia. I finished elementary school there. Then we moved to Warrington in Warren County, Georgia. I finished high school there. Then, uh, entered college at Fort Valley State College. And, uh, we moved to Fort Valley. Uh, Peach County, Georgia. And of course, we stayed, uh, in Fort Valley, uh, until my parents died.
OLIVER REESE LUMPKIN: (CONTINUED) And, uh, then, um, I went to school at, no, I taught for a while in, uh, Georgia. And I went and got a Masters, and, uh, then, uh, after I got a Masters, I went to, uh, I taught for, oh, I was Assistant Principal for a while at Beach High School in Savannah. And then, uh, I went to get a Doctorate at Ohio State. And after that, I taught for about 15 years, uh, at Clemson University. (TECHNICAL)
INTERVIEWER: Just give us right now what you did before the Marine Corps, and, and, you know, and how for your education was. And also tell us a little bit about what your family was like, what they did for a living, if you had brothers and sisters.
OLIVER REESE LUMPKIN: Well, I am the fourth child of eight children. My mother and father were teachers. Uh, I taught, uh, in the public schools of Georgia for about eight years. Then, uh, I went and got a Masters at Tuskegee Institute. And after I got a Masters, I, (CLEARS THROAT) well, all that was on the G.I. Bill. Um, that's about it.
INTERVIEWER: Uh, can you tell us why you joined the Marines? What, what led you to enlist?
OLIVER REESE LUMPKIN: (LAUGH) I didn't join the Marines. The Marines selected me. Uh, I was in line, being examined, and, uh, they had our records following us. And, uh, when I was going down the line, fellow reached over and says, you come with me. And he pulled me out, and, uh, I stood there. And the rest of the fellows that we were, that we came together with, um, they went on. And, uh, I didn't see them anymore until I got back home. I went to Macon the next day and was inducted in the Marine Corps.
INTERVIEWER: Why do you think you were selected? Why do you think you were pulled out of the crowd?
OLIVER REESE LUMPKIN: Well, uh, I, when I went, I think it was the '46 Platoon at Montford Point. I was the first, uh, college man, or person who had been to college, to go to the Marine Corps then. I was told that. And that was, uh, the reason that I think, and of course, I was, uh, I played a little football. A little basketball, and I ran a little track, and I was in pretty good physical shape.
INTERVIEWER: (UNINTELLIGIBLE) . What, what year was that?
OLIVER REESE LUMPKIN: Nineteen forty-three.
INTERVIEWER: Tell us, how, how, how did you travel? How did you get to Montford Point?
OLIVER REESE LUMPKIN: Um, we went by Greyhound bus. I went by Greyhound bus. From Fort Valley to Augusta to, to, uh, Jacksonville.
INTERVIEWER: Talk a little bit more about the trip. Just tell us your...
OLIVER REESE LUMPKIN: Well, it, it was, uh, uh, on a segregated, uh, facility. And of course, I, I don't remember whether it was crowded or not. But usually, uh, that was a crowded trip.
INTERVIEWER: Any other impressions you can share with us about the people you were with, uh...
OLIVER REESE LUMPKIN: No, um...
INTERVIEWER: What it was like?
OLIVER REESE LUMPKIN: Um, I was the only person going from, uh, my hometown to the Marine Corps.
INTERVIEWER: Let me go back and ask you another question, a related question. Uh, how did you learn about the Marines? Did you know anything about the Marines before you, you said you were selected, so I know you didn't go to the (UNINTELLIGIBLE) .
OLIVER REESE LUMPKIN: (OVERLAPPING) Mm hmm. No, I didn't. Uh uh.
INTERVIEWER: But did you know that they were accepting African-Americans in the Marine Corps?
OLIVER REESE LUMPKIN: Uh, I was not even concerned, I, I wasn't concerned about the Army, Navy, or Marine Corps. I wanted to go to OSC.
INTERVIEWER: Okay. Um, if, and you traveled, you said, on a Greyhound bus.
OLIVER REESE LUMPKIN: Mm hmm.
INTERVIEWER: Okay. What were your first or early impressions of the camp once you got there?
OLIVER REESE LUMPKIN: Well, uh, I really didn't know what to expect because I had never been in a camp before. And, uh, having gone to something like a C. C. Camp, it was a little rundown. But, uh, other than that though, uh, I had heard a lot about how, how tough the Marines were. And, uh, the whole thing was a bit competitive as far as I was concerned. Uh, the physical, the mental, everything was competitive. And so, I kind of liked it. Uh, because every time I, uh, every time I did anything, I was competing.
INTERVIEWER: Did you, can you describe what the camp looked like? I mean, when you got off the bus?
OLIVER REESE LUMPKIN: Uh, I got off the bus in Jacksonville. And, as I remember, uh, we went by in, uh, we went to camp in, um, a truck. And, um, we got there about sundown. We got to, uh, on base about sundown. And, uh, there was a Sergeant Ingram who was in charge of, uh, the Recruit Depot. And it was interesting to me that, uh, he started talking about, uh, rocks and shoals. And he was, (WORD?) with a Navy manual.
OLIVER REESE LUMPKIN: (CONTINUED) And these little fellows who didn't, he was small, but he didn't, didn't smile very much. And, uh, I figured that he was really trying to put the fear of God in you. And, uh, he said, uh, that, uh, you would defend this country, even against your mother. And I sat there and I looked at him. And, uh, I wonder where this fool come from because my mother was the reason that I was in the Corps. Or, wherever where I was, she was the person responsible for me being there. The attitude that I had. Uh, and so, (LAUGH) uh, I got to be his whipping boy. I, I, uh, I, uh, soon became the college boy. Because I was the only one in my platoon that time.
INTERVIEWER: When you, when you'd look at the camp, what would you see in terms of buildings and that kind of thing?
OLIVER REESE LUMPKIN: It was an old, refurbished as best they could, C. C. Camp. Wooden buildings. Uh, and I guess it, uh, held maybe, it might have held a platoon, I don't know. But, um, uh, they had, uh, refurbished it.
INTERVIEWER: Did you see any other activity going on? Troops marching?
OLIVER REESE LUMPKIN: (OVERLAPPING) Uh, other platoons were there.
INTERVIEWER: What was happening, I mean...
OLIVER REESE LUMPKIN: Uh, they were marching. Uh, and the interesting thing, the Marine Corps, they always said that the Marine Corps, uh, was trained to teach you how to live, not, uh, get killed. And of course, uh, that was, uh, the thing that was kind of interesting to me. Because, uh, I never looked at what they were doing as maybe racist or cruel. Uh, to me, uh, I was thinking about, uh, the time that I would get out.
OLIVER REESE LUMPKIN: (CONTINUED) And that went, uh, even to the time that I went overseas, uh, I'll never forget, I was on ship. And, uh, I found myself walking and just looking in the face of everybody that was, uh, sitting around on the ship. And I wondered, would you be back?
INTERVIEWER: Can I interrupt and as you, uh, Mr. Lumpkin, would you tell us, can you just describe if you were trained at all in hand-to-hand combat, or if you were trained in, you know, riflery. (CLEARS THROAT) And if so, tell us something about what that process was like, so, when you were in basic training. Could you just tell us a little bit about it?
OLIVER REESE LUMPKIN: After, uh, after I finished, uh, boot camp, uh, and I was transferred to, uh, the 51st, one morning, uh, the Intelligence Officer sent for me. And I wondered what in the hell does he want? And I said, somebody has told a damn lie, because I, I had been, I started searching myself because I wanted to know, what did the man want, what did the Intelligence Officer want from me?
OLIVER REESE LUMPKIN: (CONTINUED) And, uh, I went to his office and, uh, he was a Lieutenant Zastro (SP?) , who was a West Pointer. And he was just reading something. And, uh, he told me to come in and have a seat. And I did. And it looked like to me I sat there two or three years. Because I was really wondering, what in the world could he want with me? And, um, finally, he asked me if I knew anything about Boyle's Law.
OLIVER REESE LUMPKIN: (CONTINUED) And so I told him, yeah. So we talked about Boyle's Law for a little while. And, uh, then he told me that I had been, uh, selected, uh, to go to school. And, uh, so, after we talked world while and settled down, he told me that I was going to school for, uh, meteorology. Uh, and he went on to talk about, um, um, wind speeds and wind directions and, uh, weather and that kind of stuff.
OLIVER REESE LUMPKIN: (CONTINUED) So, uh, uh, I guess after we talked, for about, oh, maybe weak or so, before, uh, a school was organized their own camp, and we had an officer to teach meteorology, he had, uh, some little books that, uh, the Marine Corps issued. And, uh, we went to school for that. And, uh, uh, we mixed helium. Uh, we weighed the, uh, lifted the, the, uh, gas, and, uh, wind speed, wind direction, that kind of thing.
OLIVER REESE LUMPKIN: (CONTINUED) And, uh, all of this was for big guns. And we did that until, uh, until we went, uh, overseas. Well, actually, until we went to Enewetak. At first, though, we went to Funafuti. That's in the Ellice Islands. Uh, and we continued wind, speed, direction, that kind of thing to the big gun. But when we got to Enewetak, I was detached to Navy. And I went into Aerology. Uh, and, on, uh, in Aerology, the native was, uh, getting data and sending data all over the Pacific. And we were in weather, rather than just a wind speed, that kind of thing.
OLIVER REESE LUMPKIN: (CONTINUED) And, uh, um, I think the Navy tried to be, um, they tried to be civil. Because they organized, um, there were four of us. And each of had, was, no, two of us had watches. Headed watches. And two, uh, were own watches. And there were two watches headed by Whites. Uh, and, uh, we worked eight-hour shifts. And of course, uh, uh, that was quite a nice, uh, little, uh, experience. (TECHNICAL)
INTERVIEWER: Okay, sir. Bearing, during your experience in Montford Point from the very first time you got there, did you experience any kind of racism, or could you see evidence of racism?
OLIVER REESE LUMPKIN: (LAUGH) The racism is an interesting term to me. Uh, everything that a Black man does in America has to be, because it's sponsored by a racist society. No. Um, racism to me means, uh, uh, it has nothing to do with whether you write like me, Black or not. Because there are a whole lot of Blacks that I don't like. Hell, it's really preferential treatment. Uh, I got, uh, uh, I, I, I preference, I select my friends, White, Black, blue, green.
OLIVER REESE LUMPKIN: (CONTINUED) But racism has to do with (CLEARS THROAT) let's say you hire, or you buy a Black person and a White person, they both are doing the same job. Suppose you pay the White person more than you do the Black person. That's racism. Because the dollar is the common denominator for the American society. This is the thing that determines what you eat, where you eat, how you eat, uh, your vacation, where you sleep, house, everything, uh, is determined by that. And it's not the poor person, it's not the poor White person who is a racist. The racist is the person who was paying for the poor person to do to you the kinds of things that he does.
INTERVIEWER: Did you, did you see on, um, Montford Point during your experience there, any kind of, anything that you would consider to be racist? And can you give us some examples?
OLIVER REESE LUMPKIN: No, because, uh, Montford Point was Black, except for, uh, a few White, uh, officers.
INTERVIEWER: Could you talk a low bit about that, how it looked, and how the Blacks eventually became the drill instructors and so forth?
OLIVER REESE LUMPKIN: I don't know about, uh, how they became drill instructors because, uh, Blacks were drill instructors when I got there.
INTERVIEWER: And can you talk about your experience with those drill instructors?
OLIVER REESE LUMPKIN: Well, uh, from the very outset, uh, I guess it was my competitive nature, being, uh, in, uh, pretty good shape, because I, as I told you, I, I liked football, basketball, then I ran track. Uh, the, the mile run every morning was a challenge to me. And heck, I lived that. I lived the Crop (SP?) . I lived the platoon. Uh, and every time, uh, we had a chance to have a five-minute break, I'd lay down to go to sleep.
OLIVER REESE LUMPKIN: (CONTINUED) And there were fellows who, Black fellows who, uh, were trained to get the, uh, attention or maybe the favors of, uh, um, the DI. And they were telling them a whole lot of stuff. But (STAMMERS) I went to sleep. And of course, I got to be that college boy.
INTERVIEWER: You, but you generally enjoy, uh, oh, can I say that you enjoy, uh, you know, as good experience with the drill instructors as any of the others?
OLIVER REESE LUMPKIN: Uh, yeah, because, uh, mine was always competitive. Uh, uh, regardless of what they were trained to do. Uh, and I wanted to keep in mind, uh, that what they were doing was trying to get me ready for, uh, life in the Marine Corps.
INTERVIEWER: Let me ask you another question. Colonel Woods. Do you remember Colonel Woods?
OLIVER REESE LUMPKIN: I heard of Colonel Woods, but Colonel Stevenson was there when I was, uh, in the 51st.
INTERVIEWER: Okay. What was the overall spirit, uh, of the, of the men at Camp Lejeune? I mean, their attitude. I mean, uh, can you talk a little bit about that and give me some, assuming (UNINTELLIGIBLE) ?
OLIVER REESE LUMPKIN: From where I sat, uh, the spirit was, uh, exactly what, it, it, it was fine. Uh, comradeship. Uh, the gun batteries, uh, were spirited because I think, at least I heard, that the 51st, uh, in, uh, with this 155s, and the 90 millimeter, uh, rifles took the Army Navy E from the Navy, and it was back to the Marine Corps because of the efforts of the 51st. And, the spirit was very high.
INTERVIEWER: And, other activities. The Marines just interacting with each other. Uh, just doing things together.
OLIVER REESE LUMPKIN: (OVERLAPPING) Yeah. Very good.
INTERVIEWER: Going out in town, or just...
OLIVER REESE LUMPKIN: (OVERLAPPING) Yeah.
INTERVIEWER: ...on the camp, I mean, were they, were they getting all the, were that excited about this experience of being a Marine?
OLIVER REESE LUMPKIN: Uh, yeah, in some of them to, uh, to an extent that, uh, I think they over played their hand. Because I remember when, um, I came out of boot camp, I was told, we were told that, uh, a Marine can beat any five civilians. And some fellows have little enough sense to try it. They went to town and got drunk, and took on, uh, a bunch of folk. And got the living hell beat out of them. (LAUGH)
INTERVIEWER: Okay, can, can you talk a little bit more about the experience, uh, of going on liberty in the Jacksonville area? Going off the base.
OLIVER REESE LUMPKIN: Uh, there wasn't, (STAMMERS) as far as I was concerned, there wasn't very much liberty in Jacksonville. Uh, I went to Wilson, Kinston, and Raleigh, places like that.
INTERVIEWER: Talk, talk to us a little bit about what you did.
OLIVER REESE LUMPKIN: Uh, well, you, you would go to, um, uh, restaurants, uh, and places where they had, uh, rockolas (SP?) , um, uh, music and, um, food. And, um, of course there were some ladies there. Um, and just a regular (WORD?) .
INTERVIEWER: Did, did, did you go off base in uniform? Did people recognize you as being as being a Marine?
OLIVER REESE LUMPKIN: Sure. That was the only way they could recognize you.
INTERVIEWER: How did they treat you, uh, being, being, uh, a Black Marine.
OLIVER REESE LUMPKIN: But you see, um, uh, this is what I was talking about. When you, when a Black Marine goes into a Black community, he has respect. And, uh, we seldom went into de-segregated situations.
INTERVIEWER: So, are you, are you saying that most of you are, uh, that, you know, travels off base were in segregated areas?
OLIVER REESE LUMPKIN: (OVERLAPPING) Mm hmm. Yeah.
INTERVIEWER: Talk with, about that.
OLIVER REESE LUMPKIN: Yeah.
INTERVIEWER: Okay. All right. Um, did you, uh, when you did encounter Whites, what kind of experiences did you have?
OLIVER REESE LUMPKIN: I only had, uh, one experience as I remember with, uh, Whites, and we were in San Diego. And, uh, that was right around the corner from a Black And Tan. And at that time, uh, King Cole was coming out. And, uh, we went from, uh, the Black And Tan, which was, uh, a bar, around the corner to get something to eat. And when we walked in, there were some White, uh, (STAMMERS) soldiers. Uh, there were about six of us who walked in, and they hollered, Nigger Marines. And, uh, it started. It was a good one. (LAUGH)
INTERVIEWER: Did you encounter other situations like that?
OLIVER REESE LUMPKIN: I never. None.
INTERVIEWER: Getting back to the base using public transportation. Did you have a problem with that? Please tell us...
OLIVER REESE LUMPKIN: (OVERLAPPING) Uh, the only thing is that sometimes you wouldn't have enough buses.
INTERVIEWER: What, what would happen? I mean...
OLIVER REESE LUMPKIN: Uh, you'd just have to wait until, uh, the buses come.
INTERVIEWER: And were you, uh, directed to specific parts of the bus? I mean, did you, you know, could you sit where you wanted to? And, give us, tell us a little bit about that.
OLIVER REESE LUMPKIN: Oh, uh, uh, as long as you were in the South, yes. Uh, it, well, you went directly to the back, you just, just went. But, uh, when you got the California, uh, you'd sit where you wanted.
INTERVIEWER: Um, the, the U.S.O., uh, did, did they have a U.S.O. in Jacksonville? Or so did you, did you attend that?
OLIVER REESE LUMPKIN: I never attended a, uh, uh, a U.S.O. in Jacksonville. Uh, the only U.S.O. was, uh, in San Diego, that I attended.
INTERVIEWER: Well, all those liberty spots you talk about around Jacksonville, which one of your favorite? And why so?
OLIVER REESE LUMPKIN: Um, I think Wilson and Kinston. Oh, and then, uh, uh, sure, I went New York and Philadelphia. And, uh, I'd catch the train out of there.
INTERVIEWER: Uh, did you-all have a whole lot of time, I mean, when you were, where you are, did you have to be back by a certain time and, and...
OLIVER REESE LUMPKIN: Well, uh, uh, if you went out, um, uh, on, uh, on liberty, you were there, uh, and, you were back by next morning. But now weekend, if you had a weekend pass, well, you could go to New York.
INTERVIEWER: Um, when you, after, after you left Montford Point, after you were transferred out of the training situation, where did you go?
OLIVER REESE LUMPKIN: I went to the 51st Defense Battalion.
INTERVIEWER: Talk a little bit about that experience.
OLIVER REESE LUMPKIN: Um, before I got to the Corps, I had had a little, a little ROTC at Tuskegee. And, uh, uh, I sort of knew about drilling and that kind of thing. And, uh, uh, that was, that was a particularly, it, it, it wasn't tough. Uh, but, uh, what, what specific now are, are, are you getting at?
INTERVIEWER: Okay. Well, let me, let me ask you. Okay, when you got your orders to go to, well, you went to the 51st.
OLIVER REESE LUMPKIN: Yeah.
INTERVIEWER: And then the entire 51st moved out, I guess...
OLIVER REESE LUMPKIN: (OVERLAPPING) Mm hmm.
INTERVIEWER: (OVERLAPPING) ...to go to California. Is that right?
OLIVER REESE LUMPKIN: Mm hmm.
INTERVIEWER: Tell us a little bit about that, that whole thing. You know, I mean, you getting your orders, and the trip out there, what, what happened when he got there. (LAUGH) and, you know, the triple overseas.
OLIVER REESE LUMPKIN: We went to, we went from, uh, Jacksonville to Atlanta. And Kenneth Whitlock was the, uh, he was the, uh, what do you call it? MP? Uh, he was in charge of MPs. Um, and, uh, we got to Atlanta and we started, uh, out of, uh, the, the, what do you call it, the, uh, where the trains were down below the ground. Uh, so we started up. And, uh, one YMP told us from the Army, told us that we couldn't come up that way. And so, uh, we (WORD?) asked him, uh, where does that, where is that in the Marine Corps manual?
OLIVER REESE LUMPKIN: (CONTINUED) And, uh, he called the police. And, uh, we marched right on up. Eventually, uh, there was almost a skirmish, but, uh, we went, we marched right on through, and we went, uh, on to breakfast.
INTERVIEWER: What was it that allowed you to march through? What happened? What was the incident?
OLIVER REESE LUMPKIN: Um, uh, we were, we were going for breakfast, uh, in Atlanta. And we were coming out of, uh, the chute, up through the White, uh, Waiting Room. And the MP told us that we couldn't come through there. And Whitlock, who was, uh, in charge, he was provost, the, at, uh, and he just told us to go over, uh, continue to march, and across we went. And of course, a lot of MPs and police came, but, uh, eventually we went, we went on.
INTERVIEWER: Was Whitlock Black or White?
OLIVER REESE LUMPKIN: Black.
INTERVIEWER: And, and because he said, let you go, everybody...
OLIVER REESE LUMPKIN: (OVERLAPPING) Well, uh, uh, you know, there were some officers and so forth, but, uh, the thing finally settled and we went on.
INTERVIEWER: Okay. Great. Now, uh, what about the, where did you go from California? What, what...
OLIVER REESE LUMPKIN: Um, we got to California and we went to, I think it was Merrimont. And we stayed out there for about, oh, maybe a couple of weeks. And then, uh, we were put aboard, uh, a ship. Uh, I can't remember the name right now. But, uh, we went from there to Funafuti. That's in the Ellice Islands.
INTERVIEWER: What did you do when you got there? Talk a little bit about your stay there and what happened.
OLIVER REESE LUMPKIN: Well, it was, uh, uh, about like, uh, uh, uh, Montford Point, except, uh, I think, I think we had tents. I'm not sure if I remember that. And, um, um, we continued to do the little things that we had already done, uh, in, for meteorology. And, uh, when the time came, we got our little dudes and our little duds and we went on.
INTERVIEWER: Did you see any evidence of any real hard combat activity before having happened or having occurred there before you got there?
OLIVER REESE LUMPKIN: No. Um, uh, at Funafuti, the, we occupied, uh, Funafuti, which is the island that we were on, that's in the Ellice Islands. And, uh, then there was another island on which the natives lived. Uh, but there was no evidence of, uh, ever having had, uh, any combat of any nature on that island.
INTERVIEWER: So while you were there, uh, there was no combat. You were basically there to do what?
OLIVER REESE LUMPKIN: Uh, we were there to protect the, the, the island. This was, uh, uh, a defense battalion.
INTERVIEWER: Okay. But while you were there, there was never any resistance or any...
OLIVER REESE LUMPKIN: No. No, no, no. We were too far from it.
INTERVIEWER: Where did you go when you left Funafuti?
OLIVER REESE LUMPKIN: We went down to Enewetak.
INTERVIEWER: Talk a little bit about your stay there.
OLIVER REESE LUMPKIN: Well, to talk about evidence of, uh, (LAUGH) of combat, uh, hell, there wasn't anything there. Didn't have any trees, anything there. So, uh, there was no evidence of combat, wasn't any evidence of anything. (LAUGH) Uh, except well, they had about 15,000 men on the island. And all.
INTERVIEWER: Uh, 15,000 men, were these Allied forces?
OLIVER REESE LUMPKIN: Um, the, these Army, Navy, and Air Force.
INTERVIEWER: What were, what were they doing?
OLIVER REESE LUMPKIN: Um, they were doing, I, I, I, they were carrying on their daily routines. Uh, whatever they were. And of course we were primarily responsible for the, uh, defense, uh, of that island.
INTERVIEWER: Were there any, uh, were there any Japanese that you, uh...
OLIVER REESE LUMPKIN: (OVERLAPPING) No. No.
INTERVIEWER: Oh. Okay. Enemy troops. So...
OLIVER REESE LUMPKIN: (OVERLAPPING) Not that I heard of.
INTERVIEWER: Yeah. So you never personally were involved in combat?
OLIVER REESE LUMPKIN: No. I was, uh, detached to a Navy and I was with Aerology. I was always chasing clouds.
INTERVIEWER: How long did you stay deployed, um, while in the area?
OLIVER REESE LUMPKIN: Uh, maybe about two years.
INTERVIEWER: And, uh, your life in general? I mean, two, two years? That, that's two years, or what were you doing in that period of time?
OLIVER REESE LUMPKIN: Well, you work and go to sleep and, uh, there was a little wine, a little beer. And, uh, we had a heck of a lot of fun when they shipped our, our whiskey into the officer's. Uh, (LAUGH) uh, they, uh, one night they stopped in front of my tent, and, uh, our tent was, uh, a continuation, uh, White fellows, they'd have the folded bed. The, uh, floor, we dug out. And then a wooden floor over it.
OLIVER REESE LUMPKIN: (CONTINUED) And of course we stole several cases of whiskey and put it under the floor. And (LAUGH) we, uh, I ain't never cared very much about drinking liquor, but, uh, it was there and the fellows came down, and they drank. We sat and talked.
INTERVIEWER: Where did you go when you left, when he came back to the base?
OLIVER REESE LUMPKIN: Um, we went back to, uh, Merrimont, and then we caught train and came back into North Carolina.
INTERVIEWER: When, and were you separated from the military? Did you continue to serve after that?
OLIVER REESE LUMPKIN: No. Uh, uh, uh, after, um, uh, I guess, when, uh, they told me that there were some tests that they couldn't give me for OSC, and, uh, I didn't get that. Uh, and so finally, they told me that, uh, what, there was a test for night blindness. I never knew what that was, but they gave it to me and they say I passed. But, um, at that particular time, I wanted to be Mr. Lumpkin. I wasn't interested in being lieutenant then. And so, uh, when, uh, my time came and I had enough points, I got out.
INTERVIEWER: What, uh, what was your rank when you did get out?
OLIVER REESE LUMPKIN: Sergeant.
INTERVIEWER: Okay. Okay.
OLIVER REESE LUMPKIN: Three striper.
OLIVER REESE LUMPKIN: Mm hmm.
INTERVIEWER: Okay. While you were in the Marine Corps, did you, uh, did you mingle with any Whites? Did you have any White friends?
OLIVER REESE LUMPKIN: Sure. When I was, uh, detached to the Navy, uh, I had two, uh, fellows that I considered to be very, very good friends. Uh, one, uh, was a student at Rutgers. And the other was, uh, a student at NYU. And, uh, we talked a good deal. And we just did things. We went to chow together and we went around together. Uh, and, uh, I thought it was a very good relationship.
INTERVIEWER: These were Marines?
OLIVER REESE LUMPKIN: Yeah. No, no, no, no. This was Navy.
INTERVIEWER: Okay. (TECHNICAL)
INTERVIEWER: (CONTINUED) You, you realize, you recognize now, uh, I'm sure, I, I don't think that a whole lot of fellows that went in realized that they were making history at Montford Point. But, but you, you realize that, Mr. Lumpkin now, I, I would think. And can you tell me about your feelings on the historical significance of, of having been a part of all of that? The Market Point Marines in general?
OLIVER REESE LUMPKIN: Um, as I stated from the outset, uh, this whole thing was, uh, competitive. And, uh, I know that, uh, the offices, uh, had said that we, uh, weren't, uh, Marine material. But, uh, I don't know. I guess it's just my nature. Uh, and to me it was, uh, uh, I knew that, uh, I qualified. And, uh, I thought there were several other people. But, um, uh, I just, uh, uh, the thing was interesting to me. And I have often wondered about people who think, uh, like the Commandant and a bunch of other folk. Uh, I don't like to be told too much. I want to find out some things for myself.
INTERVIEWER: Well, you, you heard, I know, because you went to Tuskegee. You've heard of the Tuskegee Airmen?
OLIVER REESE LUMPKIN: Sure. I was there when they were there.
INTERVIEWER: And, and you, you've heard of Buffalo soldiers...
OLIVER REESE LUMPKIN: (OVERLAPPING) Sure.
INTERVIEWER: (OVERLAPPING) ...and maybe looked at the movie Glory...
OLIVER REESE LUMPKIN: (OVERLAPPING) Mm hmm.
INTERVIEWER: ...and saw the, uh, heroics of African-Americans during the Civil War. How, how would you relate to those experiences to what you, to what you did?
OLIVER REESE LUMPKIN: Uh, I think, uh, I think the 51st would stack up very well. Uh, they did a lot of things that they weren't given credit for. Uh, there was, uh, a lot of pride in the outfit and in themselves.
INTERVIEWER: But, but Mr. Lumpkin, you are part of history. I mean, well, you, you really are.
OLIVER REESE LUMPKIN: Well...
INTERVIEWER: Of all of the people that went through the Montford Point Marines...
OLIVER REESE LUMPKIN: (OVERLAPPING) I, uh, I, uh, I, to recognize that. But now, uh, I'm saying that, uh, being a part of history has never really bothered me. Before I figure, hell, history is going to be made period. And, uh, somebody is just recording what, uh, we've done. And, um, I've heard people say that, uh, uh, what, that that experience was a lot of hell. But, I sort of think that hell is when we lose hope. We don't experience hell as long as there's hope.
INTERVIEWER: Can you tell us whether or not that experience in the Marine Corps affected your life, uh, in any positive ways?
OLIVER REESE LUMPKIN: Yes, uh, uh, and I often remember now, that, uh, it was my mother who told me that, uh, as I was getting on the train to go to Columbus, if it is your responsibility, regardless of who is deferred and who does what, you take care of your end of it. And (UNINTELLIGIBLE) . Uh, I found that to be a part of, uh, my training as a Marine. Which means that, uh, they all just went hand-in-hand. It was a part of my training.
INTERVIEWER: Would you say that you are glad to have had that experience?
OLIVER REESE LUMPKIN: (LAUGH) Yes. Uh, because, uh, had I not had it, I don't know what the hell I'd have done. I might have sold bootleg liquor. I don't know. And I might have done something had, that I'd have been in jail for.
INTERVIEWER: So you believe that this was a positive thing...
OLIVER REESE LUMPKIN: Sure.
INTERVIEWER: ...that got you on the right track?
OLIVER REESE LUMPKIN: Sure.
INTERVIEWER: Can you say that in your own words?
OLIVER REESE LUMPKIN: Sure. Mm hmm. I think it, uh, I think it did.
OLIVER REESE LUMPKIN: Or it kept me on the right track.
INTERVIEWER: The experience that you had in the Marines.
OLIVER REESE LUMPKIN: Right.