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Newark Honors First Three African-American Professional Newark Firefighters

By rlsmetro on

The firehouse located at 360 Clinton Avenue will be dedicated to the first three African-American professional Newark firefighters.

Each of these men were born in Newark and each served in the United States military.


“There’s a rich history regarding the struggle that African-Americans have had to endure, even in public service,” Director O’Hara said. “Honoring these men on Memorial Day weekend is significant because their story would otherwise go untold.


Despite serving in the Korean War, they weren’t allowed to fight fires in the very city where they were born.

Our dedication of this building is the least we can do in acknowledgement of their sacrificial service in the face of systemic racism.”

William Thomas, Jr. was the first African-American in the paid Newark Fire Division. He was appointed in July of 1951 while serving in the U.S. Army during the Korean War.


He returned in October of 1952 and served until 1979, when he retired. Firefighter Thomas died in 1984.

Shelton L. Harris, Jr. was the second African-American to be appointed to the Newark Fire Division in 1954.


Also a veteran of the Korean War, Harris served the City of Newark for 39 years before retiring in 1993. He passed away in 1998.

David L. Bolden, 92, is the third and surviving member of the first three African-American Newark Firefighters.


Also a veteran of the Korean War, Bolden was appointed to the Newark Fire Division in 1956 and served 29 years until 1985.