Delmar Davis honored as trailblazer after service as auxiliary firefighter

BALTIMORE, Md. - Delmar Davis was a man of service, according to anyone who knew him.

He served in the Army during World War II, then when he came home worked to renovate homes in Baltimore. He became interested in firefighting, but faced discrimination as a black man.

He was not able to join an academy or work at a fire station. Delmar continued pushing, joining six other men to attend council meetings and try to speak with the mayor, to give them a chance at the job.

These men joined an auxiliary station, the one that still sits on the corner of McMechen and McCulloh Streets. 

"During that time, they could not ride on the fire truck... they would run behind trucks, this station is named after one of them. Smokestack Hardy. The reason why they called him Smokestack Hardy is because smoke was coming on him when he was running behind the fire truck," Dr. Estella Ingram- Levy said.

The men persevered, paving the way for future black firefighters.

In 1995, Davis earned an award for longest time away from the fire station, when he showed up to an 11-alarm fire at Hollins Street Exchange. 

"As we were pulling up on the fire, Delmar had apparently heard it on his scanner and he showed up," Chief Roman Clark said where Davis parked his car locked him in for the rest of the night.

Davis retired, but still visited his station about once a month, and was named honorary chief.

"He had so much energy with him, throughout his entire life," Clark said.

Ingram-Levy met Davis at a friend's funeral about 6 years ago and knew he needed to be honored for his work.

"I took him to city hall, I took him to Annapolis. I asked the state legislators, that you have to honor this guy," saying he was the last of the original men pushing for equality in fire stations.

The problem, Ingram-Levy said, was money. She said a plaque hung at his station would cost $1,800.

"It was like trying to get a billion dollars...People promised us, nobody came through. I contacted state legislators, everybody," Ingram-Levy said it took five and a half years to get the approvals and money for the plaque.

She told Davis just before he died that the process was moving forward, and he was elated.

Sadly, he died in June 2015.

His plaque was dedicated in November 2016, and Ingram-Levy says it will serve as a reminder to the community of his sacrifice.

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