Nathaniel Boone, Montford Pt. Marine: a national and Vermont treasure

by Don Keelan

We don’t often lose a National Treasure or, for that matter, a State Treasure. However, on Sunday morning, August 20, 2023, at the Vermont Veterans’ Home in Bennington, Vermont, 95-year-old Nathaniel Boone, Esq., passed away. 

His official recognition as a National Treasure came when the United States Congress in June of 2012 bestowed upon Mr. Boone and 400 of his fellow (and surviving) Montford Point Marines our Nation’s highest civilian award, The Congressional Gold Medal. 

Five years later, on February 17, 2017, in Montpelier, Vermont, the Legislature, the Scott Administration, and the Supreme Court honored Mr. Boone, a first-time event in Vermont history. 

When I described to a mutual friend, Nate’s, as we called him, brief 90 days at the Veterans Home, the response was not to think about this short period of his life but his entire 96 years. 

Don Keelan

In 1945, Nate desired to go to college but had to overcome the financial burden. His father had died two years earlier from the results of being gassed in WWI. So, Nate decided to join the United States Marine Corps. By doing so, he could take advantage of the G.I Bill to offset the cost of college. 

Try to picture yourself in 1946 on the bus with Nate as it left Englewood, NJ, for the Nation’s Capital, a central transfer point, before continuing to Camp Lejeune, NC. In Washington, before beginning the next leg of the long journey, your fellow passenger is told to find a seat in the back of the bus for the trip’s balance. 

Hundreds of miles later, the bus arrives at the sprawling Marine base, and you are instructed to get off. Nate is to stay on to go to the swamp/snake-infested part of the base known as Montfort Point. Why? Because Nate was an African American, and the Marine Corps was segregated. Nate and the other 21,000 Black Marines who endured Montford Point would become very special, a National Treasure, 65 years later. 

The physical, mental, and emotional hardship Nate endured at Montford Point was the foundation of the adversity that was never too far away. After his Marine Corps tenure, he went to Bates College, followed by three years at Boston University Law School.

Nate served his state and community in New Jersey during his law practice years and then, in 1988, in Vermont. At Hildene, the Lincoln Family Home, in Manchester, Vermont, he was first a volunteer and docent, and in 2002, was chair of the board of trustees. 

In the past 35 years, I had many wonderful experiences with Nate and Harriet. The one that continues to be meaningful was the morning in front of Manchester’s Equinox Hotel. 

Vermont Chief Justice Paul Rieber requested a breakfast meeting with his fellow attorney at the hotel. Days before the breakfast, Nate called me to say how anxious he was: he had never met a chief justice. 

The two attorneys met outside the hotel on that brisk fall morning. As he shook hands with the chief justice, Nate informed him how nervous he was. Holding on ever so tightly to Nate’s hand, the chief justice responded, “ Mr. Boone, I am the excited one. I have never met a Montford Point Marine. Furthermore, I have never shaken hands with anyone who has received The Congressional Gold Medal.” 

Several years later, Vermont honored Nate with a special day: February 17th was the 6th Nathaniel Boone Day in Vermont. 

Nate’s professionalism, generosity, and graciousness were only exceeded by his humility. 

There is a section in The Marine Corps Hymn: “ if the Army and the Navy ever look on Heaven’s scenes, they will find the streets are guarded by the United States Marines.” Nate has now joined the guard detachment along with thousands of his fellow Montford Point Marines. 

This National and State Treasure, for all his life, embodied the motto of the Marines, Semper Fidelis. Nate, thank you for the gift you have given to us.

The author is a U.S. Marine (retired), CPA, and columnist living in Arlington, VT.

Categories: History, Life&Death

8 replies »

  1. This is a great article.
    I guess semitisium is a new condition that’s just popped up in the last few years here in Vermont since the people in government changed! Humm, I wonder!

  2. Thank you for this heartfelt tribute. I would never have known about Nathaniel Boone, and I am now enriched because of it. He sounds like a wonderful man with an evolved soul.

  3. Yes, Nate certainly was a special man. Thank you, Don, for this tribute to him and I wish we could have been aware of him in past years so that we could have honored his trials, his service and his accomplishments, due to perseverance.

  4. The Vermont Kolitsry Museum would like to recognize this gentleman in its Colchester facility. Can you please contact me at the address below or call. (802) 348-3360