RICHMOND, Va. -- Firefighters are remembering Ronald Lewis, the city's first African-American fire chief, who passed away last Friday at the age of 85.
Lewis came to Richmond in 1978 after spending 22 years with the Philadelphia Fire Department. He finished first in the hiring process to become the city's 17th fire chief. He held the position until his retirement in 1995.
Nearly a quarter century after Lewis stepped away from the department, the men and women who worked by his side called him "the right person for the right job" and "a rock."
Richmond's current fire chief Melvin Carter, who has been on the job for 18 months, said he called Lewis when he was about to graduate high school in 1984.
"Hey, Chief Lewis, my name is Melvin Carter and I'm 17 years old and I've wanted to be a firefighter all my life," Carter recalled.
Chief Lewis told him to continue his education. A few years later, Carter was hired as a Richmond firefighter and ended up working for the chief.
"I never thought as a 17-year-old that I would be sitting in the chair he once sat in," Carter said.
Others who worked during Lewis' tenure said his leadership is still felt in the department.
"I believe his mark is still here because people still kind of harken back to some of the things he did," Lt. Antonio Bullock said.
In fact, Capt. Darl Jewell said Lewis is responsible for the city's "aggressive attitude in firefighting."
"As an organization, we are grateful to have had Chief Lewis," Carter said.
Lewis' memorial service is scheduled for Friday, March 1, 2019, 11 a.m. at Fifth Baptist Church, 1415 W. Cary Street in Richmond. The repast will be at Ebenezer Baptist Church, 216 W. Leigh Street in Richmond immediately after the completion of the service.
In lieu of flowers please send donations to the Ronald C. Lewis Scholarship Fund:
Richmond Fire Police Credit Union
900 Hermitage Road
Richmond, VA 23220