First African-American firefighters in St. Pete

In 2017, elected officials and a large contingent of first responders joined the Gibbs High School Class of 1969 in honoring the first African Americans to join the St. Petersburg Fire Department.

All the speakers showered the firefighters with love, words of appreciation, gratitude and thanks for the commitment and dedication to service they demonstrated throughout their careers. However, the honorees will be the first to tell you it was challenging, especially in their earlier years.

Eugene Curry (deceased), Alphonso Brown, Stanton B. Singletary, Eddie W. Utley and Preston Riley Floyd were all brave pioneers who wanted to do their jobs. Their challenges were vile.

Singletary shared with the audience that he feared being hammered in his sleep while working at a particular station. He said, “I had to sleep with one eye open.”

He also said that when he entered the break room for lunch, everyone would clear out. Furthermore, he said they had to go above and beyond to prove their ability to drive the fire truck. Singletary’s description of his experiences was very detailed and heartbreaking.

Floyd, who became the first African-American administrator (lieutenant), said, “there were periods of discomfort that were the direct result of race.”

They all retired with full benefits.

All honorees received keys to the city and certificates of appreciation from then-Mayor Rick Kriseman. The state legislature also sent certificates of appreciation.

We honor lives well lived — all St. Pete legends.

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