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First Black Firefighter Quits, Says He Wasn’t Accepted

April 22, 1987

HASTINGS, Fla. (AP) _ A black man who won a battle last year to join the all-white Volunteer Fire Department has quit, saying he was not accepted by other firefighters.

″I was like a fly in a bowl of milk,″ said Elijah Steward Jr., who joined the department 10 months ago. ″My joining the fire department was crossing the color barrier. In Hastings, that’s not normal.″

″There were some problems with the individual Steward being accepted by the others,″ said Jody Bateman, the mayor and fire chief.

Steward, 43, owner of a grocery and a coin laundry, was denied membership in the department even though he had completed certified firefighter training.

He complained he was kept out because he is black. But Bateman said the department voted to keep him out because of personal differences between Steward and the volunteers.

The volunteers later changed their minds, but not before county officials threatened to cut off their funds.

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