Royal Edward Towns (February 10, 1899–July 23, 1990) was one of the first African American firefighters in Oakland and was instrumental in helping desegregate the fire department. Towns was born in Oakland in 1899, and when denied union membership in his factory job because of his race, went to work as a railroad porter.
He joined the OFD in 1927 and was assigned to Engine Company No. 22, a segregated firehouse in West Oakland. The station was located at 3320 Magnolia Street. He helped train many other black applicants to pass the test, and was scoutmaster for a Boy Scout troop that included Sam Golden, who went on to become the first African American fire chief in Oakland.
Royal Towns was the 11th black Oakland fireman when he was hired in 1927. The 12th wasn’t hired for another 15 years.
In 1971 there were only 35 black firemen.
Towns became the first to be promoted in the OFD. He became a chief operator in 1941 and retired as a lieutenant in 1962.
Towns was instrumental in helping desegregate the fire department. He helped train many other black applicants to pass the fire department test.
Royal Towns was born in Oakland on February 10, 1899, to William Towns and Elizabeth Towns.
Towns married Lucille Dennis May 26, 1920. Together they had three children. The family lived in various locations within Oakland
Royal E. Towns died July 23, 1990, and is buried in Mountain View Cemetery
More on Royal E. Towns
- Royal Towns – Oakland Local Wiki
- Tribute to Negro Fireman – Oakland Tribune January 22, 1963
- Equal Chances Blacks seen in Fire Department – Oakland Tribune July 1972
- Oldtimers Salute West Oakland – Oakland Tribune May 06, 1973