Mayor James Fouts met with Lee Newby, his daughter Lena Newby Bennette and her husband.

Mayor James Fouts met with Lee Newby, his daughter Lena Newby Bennette and her husband.

Photo by Patricia O’Blenes

Montford Point Marine honored by Mayor Fouts

By: Gena Johnson | Warren Weekly | Published May 19, 2023

 Lee Newby sports his U.S. Marines cap having just been honored by the mayor.

Lee Newby sports his U.S. Marines cap having just been honored by the mayor.

Photo by Patricia O’Blenes


WARREN — When Lee Newby entered the conference room at Warren City Hall, Mayor James Fouts, along with many journalists and photographers, looked around as if they were still waiting for the centenarian to arrive.

Newby was honored by the mayor for his service as a Montford Point Marine, leading the pioneering division of 23,000 Black Marines in the 1940s.

“Lee just turned 100 a week ago and he looks phenomenal,” said Fouts. “I still can’t believe you are 100, but I’ll take you at your word.”

Fouts presented Newby with a medal.

“I salute you and thank you for your dedication to our country,” Fouts said.

The medal’s inscription reads, “Thank you for your service as a member of the Montford Point Marines and cheers to 100 in 2023.  Warren Mayor James R. Fouts honors Lee Newby.”

Lauding the importance and significance of Montford Point in American history, Fouts said, “Under Order 8802 issued by President Roosevelt on June 1, 1942, under pressure from the head of the Pullmans’ worker union, A. Philip Randolph. They insisted we do something about discrimination in the federal government among defense industries, so they issued that order of Montford Point Marines.”

According to Fouts, initially the division started with 900. The division quickly grew.  Newby added that the Montford Point Marines in North Carolina soon had 23,000 Black U.S. Marines.

“The famous quote, ‘Civil rights was not gained by liberty but gained by war,’ and you were part of that pioneering division,” Fouts said.

During Newby’s tour of duty, he was burned over 60% of his body, said his daughter, Lena Newby Bennette.  She said it was an explosion from airplane fuel which has a very high burning point. He stayed in the hospital for two to three months.

“Instead of releasing him for being injured, they sent him back into the war,” Bennette said.

“We’re still working on (getting) a Purple Heart for him and we’re still working on getting him 100% disability for being injured.  When he first came out of the war, they only gave him 10% (of his disability benefits),” she added.

“His scars are not healed yet.  He’s still putting ointment on his scars,” said Bennette. “That’s why it took him so long to get married.  He said, who would want him?”

Newby married. He and his wife had four children.  His wife died 31 years ago, while still in her 50s, at which time his daughter said, “He became both mom and dad.”

Like most fathers, Newby wanted the best for his children.

“Dad always said, when you leave this home, you are either going to get a degree, career or a trade,” Bennette said.

The Newby children did just that. Bennette said the oldest and the youngest are both medical doctors. Bennette has her MBA, and her younger brother graduated from Lawrence Technological Institute and is working in management.

Newby is among the 26 centenarians who were also honored by the mayor and has a tree planted with a plaque outside of the Warren Community Center.

“You’re in great shape,” Fouts said.  “What is your secret to longevity?”

Newby’s daughter answered. “He always puts God first,” Bennette said.

Newby added, “Yes. I wasn’t a drinker. I wasn’t a smoker. Early to bed. Early to rise.  Makes a man healthy, wealthy, and wise.”