Posted in Black History, Oakland, People

OPD – First Black Women Recruit

In 1970 Saundra Brown was the first black women accepted for the Oakland Police Department’s Recruits Academy.

SF Examiner Dec 18. 1970

I ‘m kind of optimistic”

Saundra Brown December 1970

Born and raised in Oakland. She felt she knew the problems of the young here. She said “in a city like Oakland, with its Black Panthers and militant groups there is a special need for minority police officers”. She worked with teens during her college days.

Saundra graduated from Fresno College with a degree in sociology. She always ad her eyes set on working with juveniles and looked into law enforcement as a possible field. She applied at OPD immediately after her June 1969 graduation. No opening existed.

She was working as claims adjuster when she heard that OPD was looking for a “black policewomen”.

Police Academy

Saundra Brown, the first black woman on the Oakland police force, gets instructions on how to shoot a shotgun, 1970.

At that time a MALE recruit needed only a high school diploma or a score of 262 on a GED course. A WOMEN must have a four-year college degree or four years’ experience in law enforcement. She had that.

She attended the same 15 week Police Academy as the 22 males in her class. She was expected to compete with the males.

She took courses in criminal law and report writing, first aid traffic investigation and the Oakland penal code. There were also defensive tactics, involving strenuous activities such as calisthenics, some judo, a little karate.

Oh, I did alright I guess” she laughed. I can throw the biggest guy in the class.

Saundra Brown – December 17, 1970

During the course she learned for the first time in her life, to handle firearms.

I used to be scared of guns,” she laughed,. “but now I feel safer with a gun in possession because I know how to use it”

Oakland Tribune Dec 14, 1970

Graduation

SF Examiner Dec 18, 1970

On December 18, 1970 she accepted her star and the congratulations from Police Chief Charles Gain as the only women in the police academy of 24.

She finished near the top of her class . She hoped to be assigned to the juvenile division. However Chief Gain had other ideas

As the only minority-group policewomen, she joined a slightly larger minority. There were 710 men on the force; only 7 women.

At that time women were not allowed to compete with men for advancement. Fascinated with the legal issues she encountered on the job as a policewoman, Saundra decided to attend law school while continuing to serve her hometown of Oakland as a police officer until 1977.

She served with OPD from 1970-77

Life after the OPD

She then received a Juris Doctor from the University of San Francisco School of Law in 1977.

She was a judicial extern, California Court of Appeals in 1977, and was a deputy district attorney in Alameda County, California from 1978 to 1979 and from 1980 to 1982. From 1979 to 1980, she was a senior consultant to the California Assembly Committee on Criminal Justice.

She was a trial attorney of Public Integrity Section of the United States Department of Justice from 1982 to 1983, and then served as a Commissioner on the Consumer Product Safety Commission from 1983 to 1986, and on the United States Parole Commission from 1986 to 1989.

She was a Judge on the Alameda Superior Court, California from 1989 to 1991.

Judge Saundra Brown Armstrong official portrait art by Scott Johnston, oil on linen, 38×27-inches, collection of the United States District Court of Northern California, Oakland

On April 25, 1991, Armstrong was nominated by President George H. W. Bush to a seat on the United States District Court for the Northern District of California vacated by William Austin Ingram. She was confirmed by the United States Senate on June 14, 1991, and received her commission on June 18, 1991.

She earned a Master of Divinity (M.Div.) from the Pacific School of Religion in 2012 and she assumed senior status on March 23, 2012

https://blackthen.com/the-real-cleopatra-jones-saundra-brown-1970-look-at-her-now/

More on Saundra Brown

The End

Posted in Black History, History, People, Then and Now, West Oakland

Royal E. Towns – Engine Company No. 22

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 E Towns

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.

Exterior of Oakland Fire Department Engine no. 22
3320 Magnolia Street

Three firefighters sitting in Oakland fire truck parked in driveway of fire Engine no. 22

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.

Royal E. Towns (center) and his colleagues with Engine Company No. 22
of the racially segregated Oakland Fire Department. (1943)

Towns was instrumental in helping desegregate the fire department. He helped train many other black applicants to pass the fire department test

Royal Towns on the left with Oakland firefighters standing in front of fire engine no. 22 – Circa 1943

Personal Life

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 Photos

The photos are courtesy of the Royal E. Towns papers, MS 26, African American Museum and Library at Oakland, Oakland Public Library. Oakland, California. Photos at Calisphere

3320 Magnolia Street Oakland – Then and Now
It is no longer a Fire Station
Rolling Hoses in front of Engine No 22
Two firemen attaching hoses to fire hydrant, firefighters practicing with fire hoses in park in the background – on Peralta Street
Peralta Street – Then and Now
Firemen holding fire hose in street next to
Gleason and Company building – Circa 1950s
at the corner of Magnolia and 34th Street

34th and Magnolia – Then and Now
Firemen holding fire hose in street next to Gleason and Company building
Circa 1950s – 34th and Magnolia
Across from the Gleason Company today
Firemen holding fire hose in street next to Gleason and Company building
Circa 1950s – 34th and Magnolia
Looking down Magnolia towards 34th St.
Circa 1950s
Looking down Magnolia towards 34th St.
Then and Now
Dog climbing ladder to get apple in front of Oakland Fire Department Fire Engine No. 22 – circa 1950s
Fireman jumping off ladder in front of Oakland Fire Department fire Engine no. 22

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Posted in History, Other

Audrey Lucinda Robinson

Audrey Lucinda Robinson – 1915-2008

Audrey Robinson was the first African American teacher at Thornhill Elementary School in Oakland Ca.

Mrs Robinson 1966 thornhill
Thornhill School 1966-1967

Early Years

Audrey Lucinda Robinson was the daughter of Charles Nelson and Maude Gibson.  She was born in 1915 in Oakland. She attended Peralta School and graduated from Claremont in 1930 and University High in 1933. The family lived at 6148 Colby Street.

Oakland_Tribune_Sun__Jan_15__1928_.jpg
Oakland Tribune 1928

She was a member of the Colored YWCA at 8th and Linden in West Oakland.  She was a member of a club that included Lionel Wilson the former Mayor of Oakland.

Audrey married Frederick D. Robinson, a Washington, D.C. police officer in 1941 shortly before he was deployed to fight in World War II. In 1944 Robinson died during combat in Italy.

Oakland_Tribune_Sun__Apr_5__1942_
Oakland Tribune April 1942

Thornhill Elementary School

She was the first African American teacher at Thornhill School in the Montclair District of Oakland. She taught kindergarten for 10 years from 1966-1976. She said that she never experienced any form of racism from the children, staff or parents. She said about one African American child would join her class every year. She loved her time at Thornhill and love the children. She was loved by the children.

Retirement

Audrey was dedicated to preserving the history of African Americans in the City of Oakland and she volunteered with the African American Museum and Library of Oakland (AAMLO). She also became very active at the Oakland Museum, serving as Docent Chairman for the History Department. She also served as Vice President of Administration for the Cameron-Stanford House Preservation Association.

Audrey passed away in June of 2008 after a long battle with Parkinson’s disease.  Audrey was predeceased by her husband, a WW II fatality, and her son. She is survived by her daughter, Jeri, her grandson Frederick and two great-grandsons.

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