Frederick Clinton Branch is recognized as the first African American officer of the United States Marine Corps.
Branch was born on May 31, 1922, in Hamlet, North Carolina. He was the fourth son of an African Methodist Episcopal Zion minister. Branch graduated from high school in Mamaroneck, New York. He later enrolled at Johnson C. Smith University in Charlotte, NC and eventually transferred to Temple University in Philadelphia.
In May 1943, Branch received his draft notice from the Army. He reported or induction in Fort Bragg, NC, where he was selected for the Marines. Two years prior, President Franklin D. Roosevelt had opened the Marine Corps to African Americans. Branch trained at Montford Point, NC with others who became known as the “Montford Point Marines.”
Branch eventually applied for Officer Candidate School, however, he was quickly denied. While serving with a supply unit in the Pacific, his performance earned him the recommendation of his commanding officer. He received his officer’s training in the Navy V-12 program at Purdue University, the only African-American in a class of 250. He was commissioned as a second lieutenant on November 10, 1945. Branch would later achieve the rank of Captain in 1952. Captain Frederick Clinton Branch died on April 10, 2005.