Raleigh Fire Department History

Fire Chiefs


Full-Time Fire Chiefs

# Name Served Notes Photograph
1 Sherwood Battle Brockwell 1912-1914
  • Born October 12, 1885, in Raleigh.
  • Joined first volunteer fire company as special member at age 16 in 1902.
  • Appointed June 7, 1912.
  • First chief of fully-paid fire department.
  • Resigned by August 1, 1914, to become deputy insurance commissioner and first state Fire Marshal.
  • Died June 2, 1953, in Raleigh, age 67.
  • Buried June 3, 1953, in Raleigh.
2 Charles David Farmer 1914-1919
  • Born November 13, 1883, in Raleigh.
  • Joined first volunteer fire company in 1904.
  • Hired by December 31, 1912.
  • First Assistant Chief of career fire department.
  • Appointed August 1, 1914.
  • Resigned July 31, 1919, to organize equipment division of state highway division.
  • Portrait from later career as first Major of North Carolina Highway Patrol.
  • Died April 1, 1949, in Raleigh, age 65.
  • Buried April 2, 1949, in Raleigh.
3 Hubert H. Horton 1919-1923
  • Born 1895.
  • Hired by December 31, 1912.
  • Original member of career fire department.
  • Appointed Acting Chief August 1, 1919.
  • Appointed Chief  October 1, 1921.
  • Succeeded June 1, 1923.
  • Died July 18, 1950, in Raleigh, age 55.
4 Lewis Fleming Hicks 1923-1926
  • Born May 29, 1888, in Granville County.
  • Hired June 16, 1913.
  • Military leave from 1917 to 1922.
  • Worked for state Highway Commission from 1922 to 1923.
  • Appointed June 1, 1923.
  • Died August 21, 1926, in Raleigh, age 38. Died off-duty of heart ailment.
  • Buried August 22, 1926, in Raleigh.
5 William Ernest "Ernest" Holland 1926-1939
  • Born June 13, 1890, in Wake County.
  • Hired February 14, 1913.
  • Appointed September 1, 1926.
  • Succeeded May 4 or May 11, 1939.
  • Also President of North Carolina Fireman's Association in 1936.
  • Died May 17, 1963, in Raleigh, age 72.
  • Buried May 20, 1963, in Raleigh.
6 Ellis D. King 1939-1941
  • Born March 27, 1890, in Wake County.
  • Hired November 1, 1921.
  • Appointed May 4 or May 11, 1939.
  • Succeeded July 14, 1941.
  • Died June 18, 1948, in Raleigh, age 58.
  • Buried June 20, 1948, in Raleigh.
7 William Ralph "Ralph" Butts 1941-1947
  • Born May 5, 1906, in Wake County.
  • Hired December 20, 1926.
  • Appointed July 14, 1941.
  • Resigned June 20, 1947.
  • Was partner in Apex Funeral Home for forty years. Also founder and first president of Apex Shrine Club.
  • Died August 4, 1966, in Apex, age 60.
  • Buried August 6, 1966, in Raleigh.
8 Alvin Brown Lloyd 1947-1955
  • Born 1892 in Granville County.
  • Hired July 16, 1919.
  • Appointed Acting Chief after June 20, 1947.
  • Appointed Chief April 1, 1950.
  • Died February 25, 1955, in Raleigh, age 63. Died off-duty of heart ailment.
  • Buried February 27, 1955, in Raleigh.
9 John Boswell "Jack" Keeter 1955-1973
  • Born February 17, 1907, in Rutherford County.
  • Hired July 1, 1931.
  • Appointed February 25, 1955.
  • Retired June 1, 1973.
  • Also President of North Carolina Firefighters Association in 1944 and 1945 (and other years?). President of North Carolina State Fireman's Association in 1958. Also Mayor Pro Tem and City Councilman after retirement.
  • Died December 2, 1978, in Raleigh, age 71.
  • Buried December 4, 1978.
10 Clarence Rudolph Puryear 1973-1974
  • Born February 9, 1919, in Virginia.
  • Hired February 15, 1941.
  • Military leave, 1942 to 1946.
  • Appointed June 1, 1973.
  • Died November 10, 1974, in Raleigh, age 55. Died off-duty of heart attack.
  • Buried November 12, 1974, in Raleigh.
11 Rufus Edwin Keith 1974-1982
  • Born April 5, 1930, in Franklin County.
  • Hired July 16, 1951.
  • Appointed December 12, 1974.
  • Retired November 30, 1982.
  • Died August 2, 1990, in Wake Forest, age 60.
12 Thomas T. Kuster 1983-1986
  • Born October 30, 1936.
  • Appointed February 1, 1983.
  • Resigned January 2, 1986.
  • First Fire Chief hired outside of department (Fire Protection Administrator, Jefferson County, NY).
  • Retired Fire Chief of Louisville, KY - Served 20 years in department.
  • Resigned to become Public Health and Safety Director in Louisville .
  • Died September 6, 2006, age 70.
13 Sherman A. Pickard 1986-1995
  • Appointed March 3, 1986.
  • Retired July 1, 1995.
  • Second Fire Chief hired outside of department (Director of Service, League of Municipalities).
  • Started career in Burlington Fire Department, left as Director of Training
  • Director of fire and rescue service training for NCDOI, for eleven years.
  • Director of Service, LoM, nineteen years.
14 Jonny B. Sandy 1995-1999
  • Hired December 28, 1964 .
  • Military leave from 1966 to 1968.
  • Asst. Chief of Operations from 1991 to 1995.
  • Appointed July 1, 1995.
  • Retired July 1, 1999.
15 Earl F. Fowler 1999-2005
  • Hired December 8, 1971.
  • Asst. Chief and Fire Marshal from 1990 to 1999.
  • Appointed August 2, 1999.
  • Retired December 31, 2005.
16 John T. McGrath 2006-present
  • Appointed February 1, 2006.
  • Third Fire Chief hired outside of department (Deputy Commissioner, Philadelphia Fire Department).
  • Thirty-two year veteran of Philadelphia FD.

 Photo Credits: Brockwell, Keeter - Courtesy North Carolina State Archives; King, Butts, Hicks, Keith- News & Observer photograph; Lloyd, Kuster - Courtesy Raleigh Fire Department; Fowler, McGrath - Lee Wilson Photograph

Volunteer Fire Chiefs

Name Title Served Notes
Joseph D. Backalan Captain 1870-71  
John C. Gorman Chief Engineer 1871-72 Resigned May 23, 1872
Unknown   1872-73  
Henry T. Clawson Chief Marshall 1873-75  
Joseph H. Green Chief Engineer 1875-81 Elected October 8, 1875
William J. Weir Chief Engineer 1881-82 Elected May 24, 1881

Resignation accepted January 6, 1882

Thomas W. Blake Chief Engineer 1882-88 Elected January 6, 1882

Resignation accepted December 17, 1888

Edward B. Engelhard Fire Chief 1888-92 Elected December 17, 1888
Charles E. Johnson Fire Chief 1892-93  
Edward B. Engelhard Fire Chief 1893-94 Elected July 7, 1893

Resignation reported September 10, 1894

Louis A. Mahler Fire Chief 1894-01 Elected November  3, 1894
Lonnie H. Lumsden Fire Chief 1901-03 Elected June 7, 1901
Walter Woollcott Fire Chief 1903-05 Elected May 7, 1903
John W. Mangum Fire Chief 1905-07 Elected July 7, 1905
Frank B. Simpson Fire Chief 1907-08 Elected Friday before June 30, 1907

Resigned October 26, 1908

John W. Mangum Fire Chief 1908-09 Elected November 6, 1908
Lonnie H. Lumsden Fire Chief 1909-11 Elected July 2, 1909

Resigned December 1, 1911

Walter Woollcott Fire Chief 1911-12 Elected December 1, 1911

Resigned June 7, 1912

Sherwood B. Brockwell Fire Chief 1912 Elected temporary chief June 7, 1912.

Elected permanent chief November 1, 1912

Last updated Feb. 13, 2013.


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