History

Just A Note


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The need to establish an association for black professional firefighters in the Austin Fire department (AFD) came as a result of exclusion, oppression, racist acts, unfair and biased treatment, and the large need to provide role-models, mentors and community services for our community. The Austin African American Firefighters Association was officially founded in 1995.

In the department an association-like atmosphere always existed in the beginning as the first few Black Firemen were hired and were a support to one another during a time of extreme prejudice and oppressive actions. In 1993 the beginning meetings took place to form the Austin Black Firefighter's Association and in 1995 the name was officially changed to the Austin African-American Firefighter's Association and became an established chapter of the International Association of Black Professional Firefighters (IABPFF).

Willie Ray Davis was one of the first three black professional firefighters in Texas hired in Texas with the Austin Fire Department on Sept. 2, 1952, and he was also the first black Lieutenant in the state of Texas and first Captain in AFD. Nathaniel Kindred and Roy Green were the names of the other 2 men hired on September 3rd on C shift the very next day. 

Some say that those three brothers were the first members of their own black firefighters association in Austin.

Betty Swint was the first African-American female hired in the Austin Fire Department and the only African-American female to achieve the rank of Firefighter. She was hired on November 5, 1979 and retired at the rank of Fire Specialist in April of 2006.

In 1977 a federally mandated consent decree was issued for the Austin Fire Department in response to the lack of diversity recruiting practices. Thankfully there were courageous brothers who stood up to the unprofessional practices occurring in the department and pushed for corrective measures. Over the years after the consent decree ended in 1982, the Black Firefighter's Association has seen many changes and growth in AFD but the numbers began to decline and continue to do so. This decline in minority numbers goes against the city’s goal of diversity in public service departments that reflect the demographics of the city’s population.

Below is an article from one of Austin's community based newspapers, "The Austin Villager", which did an article on the original 10 African-American Firefighters.


 

by QUITA CULPEPPER / KVUE News

kvue.com

Posted on October 25, 2011 at 6:29 PM

Updated yesterday at 6:42 PM

AUSTIN -- They were historic hires in a time of racial segregation. Now the men who helped break the color barrier inside one city department are being remembered with a special sculpture.

In 1952 Willie Ray Davis, Roy Greene, and Nathaniel Kindred made history. They were the first African-Americans hired by the Austin Fire Department. The three men were also the first black firefighters in the state of Texas.
Marvin Douglas was the fourth African-American hired by the fire department.
“I was hired April 16th 1953,” Douglas said.
Now 85 years old, Douglas says breaking the color barrier wasn't easy for his three friends.
“Captain Davis, Kindred, Greene -- they were great people,” Douglas said. “We had separate face basins, separate commodes, temporarily, but these guys fought the deal and they changed that situation.”
Dusty reminders of the struggles and accomplishments of Austin's first black fire fighters sit inside Austin's Fire Museum. It's a look back at a tumultuous time of racial integration.
On Saturday Davis, Greene, and Kindred will be remembered for their roles in civil rights history with a

 statue in their honor. The two-foot bronze structure will feature each firefighter's name, their picture, and their biography. For now, the statue is being kept under wraps.

The number of minorities on the force have obviously gone up since the first three were hired. Right now the Austin Fire Department has 908 firefighters; 761 are white, 139 are Hispanic, 47 are African-American, nine are Asian, and four are American Indian.
In the latest cadet class of 41 people, three are African-American. In the Sr. Cadet class, there are two African-Americans.
“There's always room for improvement," said Bobby Johns, President of Austin’s African-American Firefighters Association. "We're still under our demographic of the city."
Johns says things have definitely changed for the better since Greene, Davis, and Kindred were first hired almost 60 years ago.
“There's more of an atmosphere of understanding between the races, I believe," Johns said. “And all this makes for a better atmosphere within the fire department.”
The sculpture honoring the three men cost about $55,000 and was funded by the city's Art In Public Places program. It will be unveiled Saturday at 10 a.m. at the Carver Museum in East Austin. The public is invited to attend.

Click for a larger version

 

Other stories:

http://www.statesman.com/news/local/new-memorial-honors-austins-first-black-firefighters-1939647.html


Association Presidents

Name

Dates

Ed Bridges

1995-1997

Earl Franklin

1997-1999

Ray Hendricks

1999-2004

Jeff Ivery

2004-2005

Bobby Johns

2005-2014

Blair Campbell

2014-Present

Those Never Forgotten


 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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