Marine Corps Sports Hall of Fame

Ernie Cheatham
Ernie Cheatham
Class of 2009
Defensive Tackle and Linebacker

Pittsburgh Steelers/Baltimore Colts

Ernest "Ernie" Clifford Cheatham, Jr... born in Long Beach, CA on July 27, 1929... defensive tackle and linebacker 1954 Pittsburgh Steelers/Baltimore Colts... Armed Forces Representative to the United States Olympic Committee... earned the Navy Cross and the Legion of Merit with Combat "V" for his actions in Vietnam.

In July 1954, Cheatham transferred to the inactive list and pursued his football career with the Pittsburgh Steelers. Cheatham saw limited action as a defensive tackle and linebacker during the 1954 season playing in four games with Pittsburgh. The Steelers traded Cheatham to the Baltimore Colts halfway through the season, where he played in two more professional games.

In March 1955, Cheatham returned to active duty at the Marine Corps Recruit Depot, San Diego, as a company commander. Cheatham served as a player/coach for the San Diego football team, earning All-Marine Honors in 1956 as a tackle. In 1960, Cheatham ended his football career serving as an assistant coach with the Okinawa Streaks.

Ernie Cheatham Vietnam

In July 1963, Cheatham was promoted to Major and returned to Quantico, where he attended the Command and Staff College, graduating as an Honor Student. In July 1967, Cheatham transferred to the 1st Marine Division in Vietnam where he served as a battalion executive officer, regimental S-3, and battalion commanding officer participating in numerous combat operations. Cheatham was promoted to lieutenant colonel in October 1967.

During the TET Offensive of 1968, Cheatham, serving as the Commanding Officer of the Second Battalion, Fifth Marines, First Marine Division, lead his battalion through a series of counter-maneuvers that effectively broke the enemy threat against Phu Loc. During Operation Hue City, Cheatham displayed heroic leadership leading his battalion through heavy house-to-house fighting against North Vietnamese Forces. Cheatham repeatedly exposed himself to hostile fire and effectively lead his battalion throughout the engagement resulting in the defeat of the enemy and the subsequent enemy withdrawal from the city. Cheatham earned the Navy Cross and the Legion of Merit with Combat "V" for his actions.

Cheatham returned to the United States in July 1968 and served in the office of the Joint Chiefs of Staff until October 1970. Cheatham was promoted to colonel in 1973 and brigadier general in June 1977. By July 1985, Cheatham advanced to Lieutenant General and was assigned the Deputy Chief of Staff for Manpower at Headquarters, Marine Corps. Cheatham's accomplishments significantly influenced the future of the United States Marine Corps in areas of personnel, future planning, recruitment, financial management, counseling, and morale and operational readiness.

Cheatham was instrumental in the financial stability of the Morale, Welfare, and Recreation (MWR) activities; Club; and Exchange systems. Cheatham was appointed as the Armed Forces Representative to the United States Olympic Committee (USOC) Executive Board. Cheatham reorganized the relationships between the Department of Defense, the USOC, and the Armed Forces Sports Council. The strong partnership he created between the organizations was instrumental in the planning and success of the 1986 Olympic Festival in Houston, TX and the 1987 Pan American Games in Indianapolis, IN.

Ernie CheathamCheatham's contributions throughout his 35-year career paved the way for stable programming in all areas throughout the Marine Corps. In 1987, Cheatham was among the top candidates for Commandant of the Marine Corps. Ultimately, General Alfred Gray was selected to replace General P.X. Kelley. In October 1987, Lieutenant General Cheatham retired from the Marine Corps.