Thursday, September 15, 2011

Arthur H. Murray: Boston First Black Fireman

Dear Boston Society of Vulcans, It was an honor to compile historical research regarding the commissioning of the first African American City of Boston Fireman. However, it is my hope that your organization will follow up on the new information I am going to provide. My research reveals that on May 21, 1897, the first commissioned African American Boston fireman was commissioned. He is several times referred to as A. H. Murray, Augustus H. Murray and Arthur. H. Murray. Interestingly it appears that his commission may have been the direct result of three important facts. (1) The appointment of fireman Murray was due to Col. Henry Sturgis Russell, the City of Boston fire commissioner at the time. Nineteen years earlier, as Boston police commissioner, he appointed the first African American Boston policeman, Horatio J. Homer. (2) Col. Henry Sturgis Russell was a first cousin of Col. Robert Gould Shaw. (3) Several days after Murray’s commission, the Col. Shaw and 54th Regiment Memorial on Boston Common was dedicated and unveiled on Memorial Day, May 31, 1897. The event began with a large parade including 1000 veterans of the Seventh New York Regiment, marching some thirty years after they had fought together. Gun salutes were fired from ships in the Boston Harbor and from Battery A on the Common. Speeches were held in the Music Hall. In attendance were Massachusetts Governor Roger Wolcott, Harvard College's President Charles W. Eliot, Booker T. Washington as well as surviving members of the 54th Regiment. I hope this information is a catalyst to continue to document African American public service in the city of Boston.


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