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One of the last of the Buffalo Soldiers of the 92nd Infantry Division

Funeral services were held March 29 for Marcellus S. Brown, Sr. He passed away on March 22 in Jersey City, five days after he celebrated his 100th birthday. Sgt. Marcellus S. Brown Sr. is one of the last of the Buffalo Soldiers of the 92nd Infantry Division. He was born in Cowpens, S.C. on March 18, 1919. He was the son of James and Ora Brown. Marcellus was remembered as an unusually industrious youngster. By his 12th birthday it was clear that he had dreams of leaving Cowpens, a small upstate South Carolina town, where tobacco and cotton were the primary pursuits and young Marcellus knew there was a bigger world in the North, away from the Jim Crow south. Shortly after he moved to Washington DC, the US entered World War ll. Marcellus liked to be in the middle of things and he volunteered for duty with the 92nd Infantry Division, the Buffalo Soldiers. An uncle of Sgt. Brown had served with the 92nd Division in the Spanish American War. The 92nd Infantry was formed in the years following the Civil War. When that war ended many African-Americans, who had served with the victorious Union Army wanted to remain on active duty. The War Department decided to form a regiment of those soldiers and to deploy them to the Southwest, where skirmishes with the indigenous people were a problem. The Native American people had never seen black people, who they soon learned were outstanding fighting men. As a result of the skin color of the men of 92nd and their braveness, the First Nation People called the men with skin the color of buffaloes, “Buffalo Soldiers”. The regiment was still based in Fort Huachuca, Arizona when Sgt. Brown joined the division. The regiment had been upgraded to a full division in 1917 after the US entered World War l. The 92nd, like the Tuskegee Airmen, held a certain place in the hearts of African-Americans. In the segregated armed forces, all-black combat units were rare and often their officers were Jewish as there were few US military officers of color before 1949. The 92nd was the only African-American division to see combat during World War ll, as part of US Fifth Army. The unit engaged in combat in Italy from 1944 to VE day on May 8, 1945. During the Battle for control of Massa, Italy, Sgt. Brown was a squad leader. During a heated battle his squad encountered a German machine gun emplacement that impeded Sgt. Brown’s unit as it advanced toward the town of Massa. Brown was wounded by a German 50 cal. machine gun round. Despite losing several members of his squad and ignoring his wounds, he led his squad up an embankment where they overpowered the German soldiers. Sgt. Brown was awarded the Purple Heart, the American Theatre Service Medal, and the Combat Infantry Badge, among other honors. Following the war, Sgt. Brown became a master butcher in New York City. One of the first African Americans to join his trade union, he helped others who wanted to get into his trade. A number of young men were able to advance because of Sgt. Brown’s efforts. Marcellus married the former Joyce Mitchell, the love of his life and until her passing in 2011 shared 50 years together. He is survived by the couple’s four children: Marcellus Brown, Jr., Loretta O. Johnson, Alice M. Frazier (Alexander C. Frazier) and Boyce M. Brown (Sharifa Brown). Sgt. Brown had a number of siblings: Edna Gaffney, Jessie Mae Brown, Boyce Brown, Alonia Alston, Juanita Nicholson and Elise Fitzpatrick (twins), and Wanda Reid Brown. Alonia and Elise also survive him. He is also survived by 10 grandchildren, 6 great-grandchildren, nieces, nephews and other family and friends. Services arranged by the Watson Mortuary Service, Jersey City.

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