FORT WAYNE, Ind. (WANE) – Loved ones, fellow firefighters and community members honored Fort Wayne’s first Black firefighter Thursday with a funeral and procession.
Richard Ridley Jr. served with the Fort Wayne Fire Department from 1961 to 1985. Seven family members followed in Ridley’s footsteps, including a son, a nephew, and two other nephews who continue to serve with the FWFD.
Ridley died Oct. 21, according to the announcement by a city spokesperson.
Ridley’s family spoke on the man’s legacy in interviews with WANE 15. Becoming the first Black firefighter wasn’t the first time Ridley broke barriers. He was the first African American to attend Bethlehem Lutheran School and Concordia Lutheran High School, excelling both academically and athletically.
He went on to serve our country in the Army and graduate seventh in his class from Indiana Business College. Between serving the community as a firefighter for 24 years and running a carpet business, he was known as a hard worker, and above all a family man.
Ridley’s celebration of life began at 11 a.m. at Turner Chapel AME Church, with a viewing at 10 a.m. He was honored by Concordia Lutheran High School’s Junior Reserve Officers’ Training Corps (JROTC), a group with which he served from 1954 to 1956. Concordia’s JROTC stood alongside the FWFD Honor Guard at the viewing and performed honors for his service.
A procession to Fire Station 1 was welcomed by a ceremonial bell that rang nine times. That can be seen in the video above.
Learn more about Ridley’s life and legacy in his obituary.