Ronald Lewis, Richmond’s first black fire chief, remembered as ‘remarkable’

Richmond

RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) — Local and state officials were in attendance Friday morning as the Richmond community gathered to remember the city’s first black fire chief, Ronald C. Lewis, who died last Saturday. 

Lewis made his impact felt in the local community from the moment he became Richmond’s 17th fire chief on November 15, 1978, creating and maintaining many programs that are still in existence today.

Friday morning, Richmond Mayor Levar Stoney and Governor Ralph Northam joined many of Lewis’ family members and friends who gathered to remember the late chief at Fifth Baptist Church on W. Cary Street. 

“One person can make a difference in this world, and this case, one man made a remarkable difference,” current Richmond fire chief and longtime friend of Lewis, Melvin Carter, told the crowd.

Gov. Northam also spoke, telling the congregation, ‘Chief Lewis created a remarkable legacy.’

Chief Lewis was a firefighter in Philadelphia for 22 years before moving to Richmond. Firefighters from boh cities attended the funeral.

“He was a giant. He was a leader. He did so many things for both communities,” said Adam Thiel, fire commissioner for the City of Philadelphia. 

Those who worked with him tell me his leadership style was firm but fair.

“There are at least eight of us who were hired on his watch and promoted who eventually rose to the rank of chief, if not here but somewhere else,” said Robert Creecy, retired Richmond fire chief.

“There aren’t many fire chiefs that grow that many leaders.”

Lewis is also credited with diversifying the department and making it what it is today.

“Today you can go around to any fire house and it’s diversity and I’m so proud of the fact that in our 160 years, we are living this dream today,” said Keith Andes, president of the Richmond Firefighters Association.

During his career, Chief Lewis also helped rebuild seven of the city’s 25 fire stations.

He was also a founding member of the International Association of Black Professional Firefighters. 

Click Here to read more about Chief Lewis and his contributions to the community over the years.

Emily Girsch attended Friday’s funeral and will have a full report on 8News at 5 & 6

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