Jonathan Prince: World War II veteran, LI civil rights advocate dies at 89
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Witnessing the Holocaust's stark brutality in 1945 as an Army hospital orderly persuaded Jonathan Prince to return to America and challenge racial injustice here.
"I saw a . . . concentration camp with its lime pits and its gas ovens," Prince wrote in 2008. "It was then I made up my mind that should I get home all in one piece, I would fight discrimination wherever it reared its ugly head."
Prince, who brought his children to protest demonstrations and helped revive a moribund Freeport/Roosevelt NAACP chapter in the early 1960s, died at a Freeport hospice Feb. 14 of complications of dementia. He was 89.
Richard Prince placed his father among a generation of black veterans convinced by their World War II service that they were destined to make positive change.
"When those guys came back from the war, there was a great sense of optimism, and that now was time to fight for a better life at home," said Richard Prince, a former Washington Post writer who now authors "Richard Prince's Journal-isms," an online column examining black issues in the media. "My father modeled that behavior, by taking us to the March on Washington, by taking us to the pickets at Woolworth's, by making sure we knew our black history."
Jonathan Prince was the son of St. Kitts immigrants, a graduate of DeWitt Clinton High School in the Bronx, and one of four brothers to serve during the war. He was drafted in June 1943 and was honorably discharged in November 1945 as a private first class.
He married childhood sweetheart Audrey White a year later, and they lived in Manhattan and Brooklyn before moving to Roosevelt in 1957. He retired from the New York City Housing Authority in 1982, shortly after moving to Freeport.
He had been a 57-year member of Memorial Presbyterian Church in Roosevelt, where he sang in the choir and was the Men's League's first president. His funeral was at the church on Feb. 22. He was buried at Greenfield Cemetery in Uniondale.
In addition to his son Richard, of Alexandria, Va., Prince is survived by a brother, Malcolm, of Harlem; and two other sons, Ujima Jame, of Freeport, who was born Allen Prince; and Richard Coleridge, of Roosevelt. His wife died in 1999.