World War II resulted in a number of firsts and produced a number of Black war heroes of legends such as personal favorites Warren G.H Crecy and Vernon Baker. Technical sergeant Alfred Masters holds the distinction of being the first Black service member of the U.S. Marines.
Born February 6, 1916, in Palestine, Texas—although some sources say El Paso—he married future politician Isabell Masters prior to enlisting. Together they had three daughters: Shirley Jean, Alfreda Dean, and Cora Lavonne Masters. Cora would later become Marion Barry’s fourth wife from 1994 to 2003.
In Isabell’s account, she and Masters were in a post office in Oklahoma City when a Marines recruit approached him and asked if he wanted to be the first Black Marine. The officer chose Alfred Masters after noticing his Langston University sweater. It’s unknown if he attended or graduated from the school.
Alfred Masters arrived in Oklahoma City months after the U.S. declared war and was sworn into the Marines on June 1, 1942. From there, he headed to Montford Point, North Carolina for training.
It is unknown if he saw combat during World War II but he managed to advance to Technical Sergeant. Following his service, he divorced Isabell Masters in the 1940s and married Mary Hendricks in 1949. Together they had five children: Mary Ann, Kathyrn Louise, Carolyn Donata, Otto Joe, and Alfred Dan Masters.
On June 16, 1975, Alfred Masters passed in Anthony, New Mexico. He now rests in El Paso’s Fort Bliss National Cemetery.