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History, Context Worth Recalling On Passing Of LBFD's First Black Firefighter, Capt. Otis Reid is reader and advertiser supported. Support independent news in LB similar to the way people support NPR and PBS stations. We're not non-profit so it's not tax deductible but $49.95 (less than an annual dollar a week) helps keep us online.
(Jan. 9, 2018) -- Gratitude is a good thing to express, and the Long Beach Fire Department has done a good thing in showing gratitude and marking on its webpage the passing of LBPD Firefighter Otis Reid, the first African American Firefighter hired by LBFD.

In history as in many things, context matters. If we had written this story in 1962 when Firefighter Reid was hired, he wouldn't be called an African American or Black. He would be called a Negro, jarring to the ears now but at the time the widely used and mainstream accepted media term. Other terms, epithets heard more often than some may care to recall now, were also audible elsewhere.

LBFD notes that Firefighter Reid was the first African American promoted to the rank of LBFD Fire Engineer (a significant step) as well as to LBFD Captain (an even more significant step.) In this, context also matters. Reid almost certainly realized, every day, that a serious error on his part, a mistake that might be excused if committed by others, could sink him. Despite that additional pressure in a line of work already filled with life and death pressures, he suited up for each shift and progressed.

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Reid graduated from LB Poly High in 1952. That was two years before Brown vs. [Topeka, Kansas] Board of Education declared separate but equal constitutionally unequal in public schools. It was three years before Rosa Parks defied a Montgomery, Alabama bus driver's order to sit at the back of the bus. In the year LBFD hired Reid, businesses and government entities in other parts of the country displayed "colored" signs at lunch counters and drinking fountains, and a national fight raged over what MLK sought, and Congress only enacted after JFK's assassination: the Civil Rights Act of 1964.



We asked LB Firefighter Wayne Chaney for his thoughts on Capt. Reid's passing. He offered these words: "Otis Reid was the Jackie Robinson of the Long Beach Fire Department. He opened the door for me, and others, to serve the Depaertment and the community."

Eloquently said. And LBFD likewise expressed its gratitude on its website: "Mr. Reid, thank you for your service and dedication to the Long Beach Fire Department. Semper Paratus [always ready]."

So yes, for so much accomplished, thank you, Captain Reid. sends our condolences to Capt. Reid's wife, Cherry, and to his two children, Crystal and Christopher, and to other familymembers and friends.





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