Honoring Chief Claude Harris: A Legacy of Leadership in Seattle’s Fire Department at the 11th Annual State of Africatown

Image Courtesy Seattle Medium

Join us for the 11th Annual State of Africatown (SOA), bringing together community stakeholders, public officials, and supporters of our mission to build a more vibrant and thriving Black Seattle on Saturday, March 2nd.

Under this year’s theme, Building Our Legacy, Together, it is our privilege to spotlight those whose endeavors significantly reflect our collective efforts towards a more equitable and just community including community elders. In keeping with this tradition, we are honored to recognize Chief Claude Harris as the SOA 2024 Elder of Distinction.

Image MOHAI Special Collections

Chief Claude Harris’s legacy is distinguished not only by his historic role as Seattle’s first Black firefighter in 1959 and first Black Fire Chief in 1985, but also by his unwavering commitment to fostering equity  as the founder of the Seattle Black Firefighter’s Association.  His 40-year tenure as firefighter and chief was marked by groundbreaking achievements in advancing the representation and success of Black firefighters in a profession where they have been historically grossly underrepresented.

Chief Harris has been a pivotal figure in mentoring Black firefighters, offering guidance, support, and encouragement to ensure they not only join the fire service but also thrive and ascend within its ranks. Harris’s efforts to provide equitable opportunities to other Blacks in the field provided the necessary open doors for those who would undoubtedly follow in his footsteps.

In a recent article from The Seattle Medium, Chief Claude shares:

“I’m most proud of the other Black firemen I was able to recruit, counsel, mentor, and the ones I was able to motivate to take the exams,” said Harris. “I would insist all my battalion chiefs try acting driving jobs, acting battalion jobs, so they could see that they could do the job.”

Harris’s leadership extended beyond the fire department. His advocacy for social justice and his active engagement in community initiatives have made him a respected figure in Seattle’s Black community and beyond.  By breaking barriers and challenging the status quo, Chief Harris has inspired countless individuals to pursue their aspirations in public service and to advocate for meaningful change within a field that remains limited in its ability to provide equitable access to career seekers from the Black communityIn.



We build upon this legacy and tradition this and at each year’s State of Africatown event.

Join us in celebrating the contributions of Chief Claude Harris and honoring a true pioneer this year and reserve your seats today.

Join us for this year's event. Space is limited. RSVP today.

As we continue to make strides toward creating more equitable opportunities in housing, education, and business development for Seattle’s historically marginalized communities. Would you consider joining us in our mission to create the vibrant and thriving Black communities we all want to see by supporting our giving today? Learn more by clicking the button below.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published.

Summer of Soul Seattle