A group of Portland’s black firefighters recently came together with a mission: to recognize the black firefighters who came before them during Black History Month and beyond. On February 14, Portland City Council declared it “Pioneer Black Firefighters of Portland Month” in a special proclamation ceremony.
Recently, it was discovered that Portland’s first black firefighter joined PF&R ranks in 1890, a stunning development considering the exclusionary laws in place at the time. That man, Augustus "Gus" Waterford, served from 1890 – 1892. When it was revealed that Waterford was buried without a headstone in Lone Fir cemetery, Local 48, PF&R’s union, stepped up and generously funded a headstone for Waterford at block 16, plot 48. He now has a dedicated marker where none stood before.
But PF&R’s black firefighters wanted to do more to highlight Waterford’s legacy: they are working with Portland Community College to create a fire science scholarship in Waterford’s name to help others join the field.
On Feb. 14, Lt Ted Mayes and FF Sultan Shabazz discussed their plans in front of City Council. “It was a proud moment to see our firefighters following their passion to create something positive for the community – a new scholarship – to help more people access the rich history and endless potential that lies in a career in the fire service,” says Chief Mike Myers.
Beginning in the 2018-19 academic year, the Portland Community College Foundation will award the first Gus Waterford Memorial Scholarship to a first-generation college student studying Fire Protection Technology at PCC. This scholarship will ensure that Gus Waterford’s legacy will live on. You can find out more about it here: pcc.edu/guswaterford