By Emilie St. John
COMPTON — The U.S. Postal Service will host a plaque dedication ceremony to commemorate the renaming of a Compton post office in honor of the first Black Marine to receive the Congressional Medal of Honor.
The post office is located adjacent to Compton City Hall and is being 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 ceremony will be held on Jan. 22, which would have been his 77th birthday.
The renaming was part of a joint effort between U.S. Rep. Nanette Barragan 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. It was my honor to introduce legislation to rename a post office in our community in honor of his courage and sacrifice,” Barragan said.
Anderson was born on 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, where he served in Company F, 2nd Battalion, 3rd Marine Regiment, 3rd Marine Division. On Feb. 28, 1967, after just celebrating his 20th birthday and his one-year anniversary in the Marines, Anderson and his platoon came under heavy enemy fire in the Quang Tri province in Vietnam’s central coast.
While among a group of fellow Marines laying on the ground, Anderson came in contact with a grenade within a foot of his head. Without hesitation, Anderson grabbed the grenade and wrapped his body around it to absorb its impact; he was killed instantly. Thanks to his sacrifice, Anderson saved the lives of the Marines surrounding him that day.
Sharif said 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.
Councilwoman Lillie Darden, whose district the post office is located, also applauded the efforts of Barragan to rename the post office in Anderson’s honor.
“I am excited and is indeed an honor to be here to dedicate our historical post office in the name of Pfc. James Anderson Jr.,” Darden said. “I am so appreciative of Congresswoman Barragan’s making this happen and getting it passed.”
President Joe Biden signed into public law House Resolution 1095, which designates the facility of the United States Postal Service located at 101 S. Willowbrook Ave. in Compton, as the “PFC James Anderson Jr. Post Office Building.
The ceremony will be held on Jan. 22 at 11 a.m.
Emilie St. John is a freelance journalist covering the areas of Carson, Compton, Inglewood and Willowbrook. Send tips to her at email@example.com.