The Story Of Claude Harris

The Life Story Of Claude Harris The First And Only Black Firefighter Hired By Seattle Fire Who Is Now 90

Overcoming Racism To Make History

Claude Harris never envisioned being a trailblazing firefighter, but his perseverance led him to shatter racial barriers. Hired in 1959 as Seattle’s first-ever Black firefighter, Harris endured racism from colleagues who refused to share cups or beds with him.

Through God’s help by his account, he overcame 25 serious threats of quitting to become Seattle’s first Black Battalion Chief in 1972 and first Black Fire Chief in 1985.

Serving As A Compass For Future Generations

Alongside fighting literal fires, Harris battled figurative ones too – facing community resentment and even death threats on calls. But he found allies as well, with one white colleague pushing him to pursue the Chief job.

To help other minorities, Harris started the city’s Black Firefighters Association and actively recruited people of color to diversify the ranks. Thanks to his determination, Seattle saw its first Black paramedics, drivers and inspectors.

Imparting Present-Day Wisdom At Age 90

Now 90 years old, Harris stays busy lecturing and appearing at events, ensuring new generations know his story. He sees modern society falling into old habits of racial separation and judges people too quickly.

Harris stresses that overcoming divisions starts simply with people getting to know each other. Through all his trials, he showed wisdom beyond his years – now his lifetime supplies wisdom for the years ahead.