Having a deep interest in our region’s history, it was my privilege to apply for state historic markers that recognize the Hunton Life Saving and First Aid Crew and the Roanoke Life Saving and First Aid Crew. The Hunton Crew, started by Alexander A. Terrell, is believed to have been the first all-Black volunteer rescue squad in the nation, while the Roanoke Crew was the very first independent, all-volunteer rescue squad in the nation due to the efforts of Julian Stanley Wise. Each represents a key “first” in American history and a cherished place in the Roanoke Valley’s past and present.
The Hunton Crew marker was unveiled on Sept. 28 and is located at 28 Wells Ave. N.W., and the Roanoke Crew marker was unveiled on Oct. 6 and is located in the 300 block of Luck Avenue, Southwest.
I want to publicly thank those that supported my efforts. For the funding of the markers, I am grateful to the Carilion Clinic Foundation and its Executive Director Kay Strickland and to Roanoke Emergency Medical Services and the late Ken Harper of that organization.
City of Roanoke personnel were also key participants, including Mayor Sherman Lea, City Manager Bob Cowell, and now-retired Assistant City Manager Brian Townsend, who provided necessary letters of support; Hong Liu of the Transportation Department for site selection and logistics; and Public Information Officer Melinda Mayo who coordinated the marker dedication ceremonies.
I am also indebted to the volunteers of the Harrison Museum of African-American Culture and the staff of the Roanoke Main Library’s Virginia Room --- Dyron Knick and Edwina Parks --- for assisting me with the research required to successfully complete the applications.
Finally, I hope that these markers will help to educate our citizens about the crews and serve as tributes to those men and women, past and present, who serve as first responders.
Nelson Harris, Roanoke
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