Remember when we were kids and we referred to anyone 40 years old or older as old? Now as adults, we look at the age of 40 as hitting our prime. Imagine the feeling of living to see your 101st birthday. One pioneer in Winston-Salem has a story to tell.
Retired Winston-Salem Fire Sergeant Robert Grier was one of eight African-Americans to integrate the Winston-Salem Fire Department in 1951. His crew, Engine 4, located on Dunleith Avenue was North Carolina’s first integrated company and by 1967 the fire department in Winston-Salem was fully integrated. The crew was made up of firefighters Raphael Black, Willie Carter, Lester Ervin, John Henry Ford, Robert Grier, John Meredith, George Penn, and John Thomas. They were also the first paid African-American firefighters in the city.
The Winston-Salem Fire Department celebrated Rober Grier’s birthday with this tweet saluting him for his service and sharing a little history on this great pioneer. As you can see, Grier has a smile that will brighten anyone’s day.
The City of Winston-Salem has produced an award-winning documentary of the history of Engine Four told through the voices of four of the surviving members. The documentary highlights how a Black college professor, a White populist politician, and the business elite enabled Black and White men to ignore Jim Crow South and live and work together.
You can watch the documentary here.