SAN FRANCISCO—The San Francisco Board of Supervisors voted on Tuesday, July 14 to honor the city’s first Black firefighter, Earl Gage Jr., with a street name in the Fillmore District.
Gage, a Texas native who later moved to the city with his family and joined the San Francisco Fire Department in 1955. He remained the only Black firefighter on the force for a total of 12 years and later became director of community services, marking him the first Black man to hold a departmental title.
He fought for a more diverse department by recruiting other minorities under his direction, including Robert Demmons who went on to become the city’s first Black Fire Chief. He retired in 1983 after serving 28 years.
Gage passed away in 2017. Sherman Tillman, president of the San Francisco Black Firefighters Association, first proposed the idea of naming a street after him at his funeral. Joanne Hayes-White, former fire chief until 2019, has spoke highly of Gage in the past:
“He was a trailblazer and paved the way for the SFFD to become one of the most diverse departments in the world, truly representing the city we serve.”
District 5 Supervisor Dean Preston stated the vote to name the street after Gage holds a lot of power for the Black community.
“The naming of a street after the first Black firefighter in San Francisco serves to proactively honor and celebrate Black leaders and pioneers of the civil rights movement,” he said.
The street honoring Gage will be a portion of Willow Street.