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Funeral Monday to honor Charlotte's 1st Black firefighter

Erwin’s family members said that he never wanted special recognition for breaking the color barrier.

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — The Charlotte Fire Department will honor Hazel Eugene Erwin at his funeral on Monday. 

According to the department, Erwin was born in Charlotte and died last week after a battle with cancer. He was 77 years old. Before joining the Charlotte Fire Department, Erwin was a firefighter with the United States Airforce. He fought fires at Seymour Johnson Air Force Base in Goldsboro and later at Cam Ranh Bay in South Vietnam, where he served for a year.  He received an honorable discharge on Christmas Day in 1966.

Erwin was hired by the Charlotte Fire Department on October 18, 1967, and assigned to Fire Station 1. Erwin was the man responsible for integrating the Charlotte Fire Department in the 1960s, and he made history for being the first Black firefighter in Charlotte. 

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“We’re not going to put this man out in the boondocks. He will be stationed on an engine company at Fire Station 1 and will have an equal chance in this department,” Charlotte Fire Chief Jim Black said back in 1967.

Erwin resigned from Charlotte Fire on March 20, 1974.

Hazel Eugene Erwin 1944 - 2022 It is with a heavy heart that we share the loss of former firefighter Hazel Erwin after...

Posted by Charlotte Fire Department, Charlotte NC on Monday, May 16, 2022

He was a man of integrity, a hard worker, and known for spending time with family and friends. Erwin’s family members said that he never wanted special recognition for breaking the color barrier.

“He just wanted to do what’s right,” they said.  

"He may be gone but never forgotten. He will forever be our Black history with the Charlotte Fire Department," the Charlotte Fire Department said in a news release. 

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