Brother Donald F. Poindexter
February 24, 1929 - February 1, 2023

Published Mar 24, 2023
The Philadelphia Inquirer
by Gary Miles

Donald F. Poindexter, retired school principal and celebrated Montford Point Marine, has died at 93

He received a collective Congressional Gold Medal in 2012 for his service after World War II and worked as a school principal in Philadelphia for nearly three decades.

Mr. Poindexter (front) stands with his sons, from left, Darryl, Duane, and Derek.
Courtesy of the family

Donald F. Poindexter, 93, of Philadelphia, retired teacher and longtime school principal for the School District of Philadelphia, and celebrated Montford Point Marine, died Wednesday, Feb. 1, of a stroke at the Terrace at Chestnut Hill assisted living center.

A principal for nearly three decades at William Shoemaker Junior High School, now the Shoemaker Campus of Mastery Charter School, Mr. Poindexter was honored in Philadelphia on July 4, 2019, for receiving a collective Congressional Gold Medal for his service as a Marine in the aftermath of World War II.

He enlisted in the Marine Corps in September 1946 as a 17-year-old, trained at the segregated Camp Montford Point, now Camp Johnson, near Camp Lejeune in North Carolina, and served as a private first class until August 1948. He attended rifleman’s school and specialized in security assignments during his service.

The Montford Point Marines were the first Black Americans to enlist in the Marine Corps after President Franklin D. Roosevelt prohibited discriminatory hiring practices in the military in 1941. They endured racial prejudice and brutal living conditions at Montford Point from 1942 to 1949 when the camp was closed.

They paved the way for Black Marines who followed and were collectively awarded the Congressional Gold Medal in Washington in 2012 for their service to both the Marines and society in general.

Mr. Poindexter was featured in a 2019 TV segment on 6ABC after being honored in Philadelphia. “I never thought I’d see a day like this coming,” he said. “But now that it’s here, it is truly well appreciated by me.”

U.S. Rep. Dwight Evans presented a bronze replica of the collective gold medal to Mr. Poindexter that day and said then in a tribute: “It was my honor to give Mr. Donald Poindexter a Congressional Gold Medal because, like many of his brothers who served, if it wasn’t for them, we, myself included, wouldn’t be where we are today.”

After his discharge from the Marines, Mr. Poindexter graduated from West Virginia State University with a bachelor’s degree in education. He was a science teacher in the School District of Philadelphia for a few years, then became principal at Shoemaker in the mid-1950s.

Later, he was principal at Stoddart-Fleisher Middle School, now closed, until he retired in the mid-1980s. In online tributes, former students recalled Mr. Poindexter as “a caring person to all the students.”

“He was the ultimate principal,” one former student said. “‘Young gentleman, where are your books?’ He would not let you leave school without books.” Another former student said: “I still remember his kindness and encouragement.”

Born Feb. 24, 1929, in Philadelphia, Donald Frederic Poindexter grew up in West Philadelphia and graduated from West Philadelphia High School. He worked as a lifeguard for a time and later taught his sons to swim.

He married Montez Webster, and they had sons Duane, Darryl, and Derek, and lived in West Philadelphia. His wife and sons Duane and Derek died earlier, and he moved to Mount Airy.

Mr. Poindexter had an endearing sense of humor and was generally mild-mannered and affable. “He always seemed to be in control,” his son Darryl said.

He liked to play Scrabble and cards, and was an active member of local and national bridge clubs. He followed the local sports teams closely, traveled to Florida, Europe, and elsewhere with family and friends, and volunteered as a reading tutor and with the Opportunities Industrialization Center.

A friend said in a tribute: “Mr. Poindexter was a nice man, great father and neighbor.” His son said: “He was an excellent father who participated with his children.”

In addition to his son, Mr. Poindexter is survived by two granddaughters and other relatives. A brother died earlier.

A memorial service was held March 25.  Interment was at Washington Crossing National Cemetery.

Donations in his name may be made to the National Montford Point Marine Association Inc., National Business Office, Box 40477, Mobile, Ala. 36640.