Long Beach Fire Department Announces the Passing of City’s First Black Firefighter

Before the year ended a historic member of the Long Beach Fire Department family died as Otis Reid, the first African-American hired by the department, passed away December 23.

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The department announced Reid’s passing in series of posts on social media this week where it honored Reid for his service to the community. The hashtag #semperparatus, Latin for “always ready,” followed the department’s announcement.

Reid graduated from Long Beach Poly High School in 1952 and was hired by the department in July of 1962. He served for over 27 years before retiring in December of 1989. He is survived by his wife, Cherry, and two children. A department spokesperson could not confirm the cause of Reid’s death or age.

Reid’s hiring came a few years before the city of Los Angeles integrated its fire department, a move that was preceded by the 1954 Brown vs. Board of Education ruling by the United States Supreme Court that “separate but equal” was no longer the law of the land. In 1955 the mayor of Los Angeles ordered its fire departments be integrated. The Long Beach Police Department hired its first black officers in 1950.

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Jason Ruiz covers City Hall and politics for the Long Beach Post.