Sheilah Belle “The Belle” Gives Keynote Address
Special guests honor Virginia’s first Black Firefighters with a ceremonial wreath
TBR — Richmond, VA – July 2, 2018 — On Sunday, July 1st at the corner of Duval and 5th Street in downtown Richmond, VA, a special tribute was held to honor the City of Richmond and the Commonwealth of Virginia’s first Black Fire Fighters who were hired back in July, 1950.
It was during that year, when a local paper announced that the city personnel department would soon set in motion, operations for the recruitment of Richmond’s and the State of Virginia’s “first ten Black firefighters.” On July 1, 1950, (68 years ago) the department hired its first Black firefighter to form the first Black unit in the city. The plan called for the men to work under white officers, until they could qualify for promotion. With more than 500 applications sent in, ten men were selected.
They were as follows LT. Charles L. Belle (the father of Sheilah Belle), William E. Brown, Douglas P. Evans, Harvey S. Hicks II, Warren W. Kersey, Bernard C. Lewis, Farrar Lucas, Arthur L. Page, Arthur St. C. John, and Linwood M. Wooldridge.”
Once hired, all of the men were assigned to Engine Company #9. The black firefighters remained segregated at Engine Company 9 until 1963 after a tragic accident. While Fire station No. 9 was built in 1902 it was demolished in 1968 to make room for interstate I-95. On Saturday, July 1, 2000, some 32 years later, the Southwest Corner of 5th and Duval Street became a historical highway landmark to remember the site. On Sunday, July 1, 2018, many remembered this time in history with a fitting ceremony in the sweltering heat just like it was in 1950.
Over the years, Richmond has since seen many changes, with the name change from the Richmond Fire Department, to Richmond Fire and Emergency Services. However as of July 2018, it is with great pride that Richmond now has 9 Black Fire Captains, 21 Black Lieutenants, 5 Black Battalion Chief’s and the Chief of the Fire Department is also now a Black man, Melvin Carter.
The well attended tribute special guests included The Honorable Chris A. Hilbert, President, Richmond City Council, The Honorable Rosalyn R. Dance, Senator, 16th District, The Honorable Betty L. Squire, President, Engine Company #9 and delivering the keynote address was Sheilah Belle.
Courtesy of www.thebellereport.com