Elijah Mitchell Sr. was a member of the United States Army’s all-Black parachute infantry battalion.
He died Oct. 7, 2012 in Philadelphia. He was 83.
He was born Dec. 4, 1928 in Walterboro, S.C to the late Jerry and Henrietta Chaplin Mitchell. He grew up in Walterboro with two sisters, Ella Bryant and Shirley Burrows, and a brother, Leroy Mitchell.
He joined the Army in 1946 and was trained as a light machine gun operator. He became a member of the 555th Parachute Infantry Battalion, also known as the “Triple Nickels.” The Triple Nickels were an all-Black unit of officers as well as enlisted men. All unit members were to be volunteers in the Army’s airborne unit during World War II.
Mitchell was honorably discharged at Fort Bragg, N.C. with a World War II Victory Medal. Upon discharge he received certification as a qualified parachutist from the Airborne School of the U.S. Army. He was also nominated to the American Legion in gratitude for his wartime service.
After leaving the military, Mitchell married his high school sweethear,t Retha Mae Singleton in 1948 and remained married to her for 64 years. They moved to Philadelphia in 1953 and started a family.He joined Ward African Methodist Episcopal (AME) Church in 1956.
Mitchell worked for the Budd plant as a welder for more than 30 years and retired in 1985. He was a member of Ward AME Church for 56 years, served on the Stewards’ Board and was active with the men’s fellowship.
“He was a hard-working man and the epitome of a gentleman. He taught his family those traits, always telling the truth whether you liked it or not,” his family said.
“He was an ever-present father and grandfather, a man of dignity and respect, mentoring offspring and family-friend alike.”
Mitchell’s favorite pastime was taking fishing trips. It was his pride and joy to come home with hundreds of fish and share them with family and neighbors.
His hobbies included watching Western movies, Black history documentaries and boxing matches. He also enjoyed being a handyman and traveling down South to Walterboro for Singleton family reunions.
He was preceded in death by his son, Japhus.
Mitchell is survived by his children, Elijah Jr. (Frida), Esau, Adeline Darby, Eric (Carolyn) and Alice Dove, who was like a daughter; 19 grandchildren, Dante (Michelle) Darby, Latia (Jimmy Jr.) Johnson, Tamika (Rick) Foster, Keenan, Erica, Millie, Terry, Eric, Boaz, Solomon, Derek, Eddie, Terrell, Freddie, Nedysha, Darelle, Tyanah, Davar and Chanel; and 19 great-grandchildren, Nyila, Alicia, Mya, Isabel, Ashley, Little Eric Jr., Derek Jr., Jalah, Zion, Izane, DeShaun, Janiyah, Ajanae, Zaniyah, Tymir, Amari, Jamar, Joy and Phillip.
Services will be held Oct. 15 at the Ward AME Church, 43rd and Aspen streets. Viewing will be at 9 a.m. Services will follow at 10:30 a.m. Burial will held in Washington Crossing National Cemetery in Newtown.