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.
Royal Towns 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.
Royal Towns was the 11th black Oakland fireman 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’s 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
II have been an Oakland history buff since going on an Oakland Heritage Alliance Tour of the Fernwood Neighborhood in the Montclair District of Oakland, in the mid-'80s. On that tour, I learned that there use to be a train (Sacramento Northern) that ran through Montclair in the early 1900s and that people lived the area as early as 1860s — been hooked ever since. Since then, I have spent a lot of time looking into the history of Montclair, and I have learned a lot. I feel this will be the best way to get it out of my head and onto paper.
View All Posts