“It’s one thing to fight for one’s country. It’s another to have to fight for the RIGHT to fight,” said Sgt. Maj. Delwin Ellington, the youngest sergeant major in the United States Marine Corps. Ellington praised the efforts of Marion Meredith Beal—a true American hero, pillar of the South Los Angeles community and Congressional Gold Medal recipient, who was recently laid to rest with full military honors at Inglewood Park Cemetery.
Ellington’s comments were made at the funeral services and celebration of life of Beal, the first African American enlisted man to work at Marine Corps Headquarters in Washington, D.C. An original Montford Point Marine, Beal served in World War II in one of the first platoons to integrate the U.S. Marine Corps.
He was also a prominent figure in the Los Angeles community. Beal worked for the Los Angeles Unified School District for more than 30 years as financial manager at Horace Mann Jr. High, as well as at Jefferson and Crenshaw high schools before retiring and shifting his focus to helping people in the community as an income tax preparer, accountant and notary public.
Beal’s Income Tax Service was located on the corner of 83rd Street and Western Avenue and saw many community residents come through the doors over the last few decades.
He was also instrumental in guiding a number of young men into responsible adulthood through his work as founder of a cub scout pack, a boy scout troop, as well as the leader of a little league team.
The entrepreneur was active in church as a long-time member of Morningside Church of Christ and Greater New Light Baptist Church.
“He raised more than just a son; he raised a number of young men, and I am proud to be one he mentored,” said Arnette Duncan, Ed.D., a professor at Cal State University Los Angeles. “Mr. Beal was a great role model for all of us,” he added.
Beal was born Oct. 4, 1922 in Marion County, Texas. Both of his parents, Henry and Mattie Benton Beal, were educators who raised Beal and his younger brother, Gerald Kenneth, in Marshall, Texas. After graduating from high school at the age of 15, Marion attended Bishop College and graduated with a bachelor’s degree in business administration in 1942. He joined the Marine Corps in 1943. After the service, Beal stayed on in Washington D.C., before moving to Chicago.
In 1950, Beal moved to Los Angeles and while working at the veteran’s hospital, he met the love of his life, Rohelia “Cherry” Burrell. They were married on Nov. 30, 1952 and recently celebrated 63 years of marriage.
In 2012, the Beal family returned to the nation’s capital, where Marion received the Congressional Gold Medal and a letter of appreciation from President Barack Obama. During the same week, Beal’s granddaughter, Monet Bagneris, while serving as Miss Los Angeles County, competed in the Miss California pageant; she won the talent competition and the Miss Congeniality award.
Beal died at the age of 94, after a brief illness. He leaves to cherish his memory his wife Rohelia; son, Meredith; daughter, Michele Bagneris; son-in-law, Rev. Dr. Jules S. Bagneris III; three grandchildren—Monet; Jules IV; Mariana; and a host of other relatives.