Son Honors Former Mansfield Police Chief Lawrence Harper

  • 9/7/2019 5:23:39 PM
  • Ingrid Schmidt
  • Local News

MANSFIELD, OH- Mansfield Esquire Roeliff Harper never breaks a pinky promise.  In fact, the pinky promise is a tradition in his family, so when he found out that his father, former Mansfield Police Chief Lawrence Harper, never received a congressional gold medal for being a Montford Point Marine, he made his father a pinky promise him that he would get him the gold metal that he earned.

The Montford Point Marines were the first African Americans to serve in the U.S. Marine Corps.  Based out of Jacksonville, North Carolina from August 26, 1942 until September 9, 1949 the Montford Point Marines bravely served in combat during World War II, including during the seizure of Okinawa.

The Montford Point Marines were collectively awarded the Congressional Gold Medal for their sacrifice and service during a ceremony in 2012.  However, many Montford Point Marines such as Chief Lawrence Harper did not get the chance to travel to Washington D.C. for the ceremony.

"I found out that they had been called to the White House and received a Congressional Gold Medal, and I asked my dad and he said, 'I've never even heard of that' and it's not like he's lived any place but Mansfield, Ohio," Roeliff Harper said.  "So I told him I'd get that for him. Then about two weeks before he passed in 2016, I made him a pinky promise that I would get that for him."

After leaving the Marines, Lawrence Harper went on to become the first black officer in the Mansfield Police Department in 1948, and later went on to become the Chief of Police.

"He was there for 54 years.  First everything up to Chief of Police, longest Chief of Police in Mansfield's history," Harper said.

Chief Lawrence Harper was a noble man who loved his job and strived to make a positive difference in the Mansfield community, according to his son.

"According to my dad, if you love it you'll never work a day in your life," Harper said.  "He was a man of very few words but when he said something he meant it."

So on Saturday afternoon, in front of friends and family Roeliff Harper kept his pinky promise to his father.  He was presented with his father's Congressional Gold Medal by the National Montford Point Marine Association at the Dan Lew Exchange in Downtown Mansfield.

"You raise your pinky and you grab it, that's all it is, but it's everything to me," Harper said.

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