Valiants, Inc. was an idea that began in the minds of Black Firefighters that were segregated in one of two all black fire stations, E-11, 10th & South, and Fire Boat #1.
Although there was at least one Black in the Philadelphia Fire Department since April 13, 1886, once their numbers increased they were relegated to the segregated companies (Many of those old firefighters are still with us and are members of the Valiants).
The Valiants were organized in March 1962, by Lieutenant Samuel Singleton. The original purpose was to form a fraternal organization of minority firefighters. Lieutenant Singleton, now deceased, never gave up the hope of having a BLACK FRATERNAL ORGANIZATION. The Whites had “The Shomrim”, “The Sons of Italy”, “The Lambskins”, “The League of Sacred Heart” and other groups. Blacks were not welcomed to join, even though as Firefighters they too felt a bond to the Fire Service.
In 1949 Blacks left the two segregated stations to join the other companies although the two stations were still all Black (Except for White Officers)! In 1952 the two stations were integrated thus ending the era of physical segregation in the Philadelphia Fire Department.
The physical was over but the mental began and still lingers in some quarters today.
You can imagine the feelings of some brothers then. After the great feeling of comradely that existed at E-11 and FB #1 they were ignored, ostracized, and in some cases abused.
In 1954 through 1957, new younger brothers began entering the Department and had no direction for the most part. Finally Sa Singleton and others met to formulate ideas for what is now THE VALIANTS.
The first officers of the Valiants were Co-Presidents Howard Rhone and Al Means. The list of Presidents goes on with brothers such as William Brogden, Donald Brown, Kenneth Babb, Ronald Lewis, Eugene Turnipseed, Tom Upshaw, Lem Roberts and Dave Holcombe.
We first formed as a fraternal group to foster fellowship and information among our members. We soon found that there was much more for the Valiants to do, however we had to get ourselves together first. Remember we were not getting Brothers in the department in great numbers and most of us didn’t know each other.
However, after a few years we were donating time and money to charity, counseling our members, performing fire prevention work in the minority community and trying to upgrade ourselves within the fire service. All while preserving our Blackness and manhood in ta department that was practicing discrimination. LEGALLY AT THE TIME!! The 1964 Civil Rights Act gave us some clout, but not enough. The City of Philadelphia or any municipality could not be sued or taken to court or coerced to end discrimination at that time. Federal, State and Local Governments were exempt then.
We became aware of Black Firefighters in other cities around 1967 or 68. We made contacts with and friends of The Vulcan Society of New York City, The Phoenix Society of Hartford Conn., The Vulcans of New Jersey and The Vulcans of Hudson County N.J.
In 1969 a conference was held in N.Y.C. in which firefighters from other cities participated. It was the consensus that a national organization was needed to attempt to combat the racism within the Fire Service, to recruit and attempt to have hired minority members and to make ourselves more knowledgeable about the Fire Service to protect our careers and move upward in our various departments.
We, the five existing organizations, made every effort to contact every known Black Firefighter in the country. Most of what was accomplished was with money out of the pockets of dedicated individuals within those groups. In 1970 in Hartford, Conn.
Firefighters from around the country, most of whom did not know each other, met and formed THE INTERNATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF BLACK PROFESSIONAL FIREFIGHTERS. Firefighters who were strangers hammered out by-laws, a name, a President. Our own Charles Hendricks, The Valiants first Treasurer was the IABPFF Treasurer, William Brogden, Valiant was the first Recording Secretary, Ron Lewis, Valiant services as Regional Head of the NE Region. The Valiants are the largest group in the IABPFF.
A brief study of hiring and promotional practices performed by the city of Philadelphia revealed a pattern of discrimination that resulted in a class action suite. The Valiants were successful in this effort some promotions were made and sizeable number of minority citizens were recruited and hired. To this date we still operate under that consent decree (1975). We are still that watchdog monitoring hiring of Firefighters and EMS personnel.
Valiants Study Groups and Recruitment Efforts have been successful and continue to support the Motto:
GOOD CONDUCT AND COURAGE LEAD TO HONOR.
KEEP THE FIRE BURNING FOR JUSTICE