San Francisco’s first Black firefighter, a Catholic convert whose faith helped him endure years of racial abuse within the department, will have a city street named after him.

The Board of Supervisors voted unanimously June 14 to name a portion of Willow Street between Buchanan and Laguna after Earl Gage Jr.  The street runs through the Western Addition neighborhood of the city where the Gage family — longtime St. Emydius parishioners — lived.

“He was a man who kept his strong faith,” his daughter Blondell Chism told Catholic San Francisco July 24.  “No matter what happened, all was good and he was blessed.”

Gage converted to Catholicism to marry his Catholic wife, also named Blondell.

While the Department of Public Works readies the new street sign for an as-yet-unscheduled installation date, San Francisco Supervisor Dean Preston has commissioned a mural of Gage to accompany it.

Gage was hired by the San Francisco Fire Department in 1955 at age 28 and was the sole Black firefighter for the next 12 years. He retired in 1983 and died in 2017 at age 90.

His hire was a progressive move for the times and not embraced by all members of the department, said Sherman Tillman, president of the Black Firefighters Association.

There were the fellow firefighters who refused to sleep on any mattress Gage had occupied in the communal firehouse, he said.
His mattress was urinated on so repeatedly that the young firefighter took to carrying his own with him from station to station.

Read more at National Catholic Register

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