February - FFD On This Date

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R.N. Moore Warehouse Fire - February 5, 1963February 5, 1963 Warehouse Fire Press clipping

According to the Review-Appeal (February 7, 1963), “A spectacular fire, visible for miles from Franklin, destroyed a warehouse owned by R.N. Moore and located on the east side of the railroad tracks at the end of First Avenue.”  The facility was filled with hay, feed and seed, and firefighters fought the fire from rail cars.  The article went on to say that “From 1925-1935, the warehouse served as the worldwide center for shipping Tennessee German millet.  The Franklin area at that time was the millet-growing capitol of the world and more was shipped from that warehouse than from any other.”

Photo by Jimmy Ellis, courtesy of The Tennessean (February 6, 1963 (page 1 of 28). (1963, Feb 06). Nashville Tennessean (1923-1972) Retrieved from https://search.proquest.com/docview/1900390163?accountid=2804)

Assistant Chief John Fitzgerald 1998 Headshot

 

Franklin's First African American Firefighter

As we begin the celebration of Black History Month on February 1st, we recognize the City of Franklin’s first paid, career African American firefighter, retired Assistant Chief John Watson Fitzgerald.

A Franklin native, Chief Fitzgerald was born in 1950, the fifth of six children.  He was raised on Church Street in downtown Franklin in a home beside the city’s garage at the time, which was located at the corner of Church and 1st.

Chief Fitzgerald attended Natchez High School on Strahl Street through his junior year in 1967 when Natchez High School closed due to the full implementation of integration.  Chief Fitzgerald graduated from Franklin High School in 1968.

Upon graduation he was hired by Vanderbilt University as a maintenance worker.

Four years later Chief Fitzgerald’s brother, Bolin Fitzgerald, a Franklin Police Officer at the time, told him the fire department was hiring firefighters.

Chief Fitzgerald said he went to Fire Chief Johnny Smith’s house on a Sunday afternoon and told him he wanted the job.  Chief Smith agreed to hire him, and he started two weeks later on April 1, 1972.

Chief Fitzgerald rose through the ranks, serving in nearly every position including Interim Fire Chief prior to Fire Chief Rocky Garzarek’s appointment in 2004.

Photo of the members of the Franklin Fire Department in 1978

Chief Fitzgerald retired in 2006 at the rank of Assistant Chief and B-Shift Commander.  Chief Fitzgerald served the citizens of Franklin and the Franklin Fire Department faithfully for 34 years.

 

Group photo (1978): Front row - Chief J.W. Culberson, Asst. Chief Bill Heithcock, Lt. Sam Liggett, Lt. Robert Irvin. Middle row - Ben Hargrove, Bill Ford, Wayne Arrington, Albert Skinner, Paul Spencer. Back row - Charlie Whitehurst, Harry Reed, Jim Harper, Jim Waldrop, John Fitzgerald.