By Emilie St. John
COMPTON — Local and federal officials gathered for a ceremony Dec. 23 renaming a Compton post office for a Black marine who died in the Vietnam War.
The post office located adjacent to Compton City Hall was renamed for Pfc. James Anderson Jr., who was the first Black Marine to be awarded the Medal of Honor for service during the Vietnam War.
The renaming was part of a joint effort between U.S. Rep. Nanette Barragan, D-San Pedro, and Compton Mayor Emma Sharif.
Barragan introduced legislation in late 2020 to rename the post office for Anderson who she called “a son of Compton, a patriot and a hero in the purest sense of the word.”
“The bravery of this 20-year old was beyond any rational expectation for someone so young, and his family, friends and fellow soldiers still feel the impacts of that sacrifice to this day,” Barragan said. “It was my honor to introduce legislation to rename a post office in our community in honor of his courage and sacrifice.”
Anderson was born Jan. 22, 1947, in Los Angeles. He attended Carver Elementary School in Willowbrook and graduated from Centennial High School in Compton. He continued his education at Los Angeles Harbor College. After a year and a half, he enlisted in the U.S. Marine Corps in February 1966, arriving in Vietnam that December.
Sharif and Compton Councilwoman Lillie Darden, whose district the post office is located, were both on hand for the ceremony.
Sharif explained the efforts to rename the post office began before she was elected mayor in June 2021.
“This process began when I was a member of the City Council and my friend who is a Vietnam vet shared with me all of the people who lost their lives during the war, many of which are buried at Lincoln Park Cemetery so I got in contact with the congresswoman and here we are today,” Sharif said.
Darden also applauded the efforts of Barragan to rename the post office in Anderson’s honor.
“I am excited and it is indeed an honor to be here to dedicate our historical post office in the name of Pfc. James Anderson Jr.,” Darden said.
Also on hand were members of the Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 5394, who were also U.S. Marines who spoke on the significance of honoring Anderson and getting the word out that he was awarded a Congressional Medal of Honor for heroism.
“I appreciate the fact that the congresswoman put a campaign together to name a facility after this young man,” said retired Sgt. Maj. Charles Cook Jr. “To have this honor next to Compton’s heart, City Hall, is even more prevalent to me.
“A 20-year-old Black man felt the need to protect his platoon of 35-40 Marines and in that he gave his life,” Cook said. “That’s a Black man who had went through all kinds of stuff before he got there to do something bigger than him. That’s a Black veteran.”
Cook explained the bigger picture is to show the young Black men and women in Compton that Black people not only survived 400 years of slavery but are also apart of the bigger picture of the United States.
“I wouldn’t have been able to be a United States Marine, let alone be a sergeant major, if it hadn’t been for people like Pfc. Anderson,” Cook said.
Emilie St. John is a freelance journalist covering the areas of Carson, Compton, Inglewood and Willowbrook. Send tips to her at email@example.com.