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.