The Missouri City Fire Department was first founded as a volunteer department on Dec. 3, 1956, by city officials and a group of citizens.
The department remained composed of all volunteer personnel until 1972, when it received its first paid employee. On Nov. 1, 1979, Missouri City hired its first black firefighter. At 24 years old, James K. Haywood Sr. was hired as a firefighter, which was his lifelong ambition. In 1979 the department was merged with police and the public safety officer program was a dual role where individuals were cross-trained as firefighters and police officers.
After serving 18 years with the department he was recruited by NBA great Charles Barkley to be his personal bodyguard. He still misses the comradery and reflects often about his career with Missouri City Fire and Rescue Services.
Blacks have throughout history acted in every capacity within the fire service. It hasn’t always been an easy journey though. Prior to the Civil Rights movement, blacks were rarely afforded the opportunity to serve as firefighters due to segregation.
The first documented firefighter in the United States was a slave named Molly Williams. She was a slave that belonged to a New York City merchant named Benjamin Aymar. They were assigned to Oceanus Engine Company #11 in 1818, which is within his company’s response district. Molly cooked and cleaned for the crew but was around the firehouse enough to learn how to use their hand-pulled water pumper. This pump was extremely heavy and normally pulled with dragropes by several men.
During the blizzard of 1818, she finally got her chance to shine. With several of the firefighters sick due to influenza she assisted the men with pulling the extremely heavy pump through the snow, where she earned the complement of being “as good a fire laddie as many of the boys.”
Lt. Robert Jasper