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On June 29 the Evanston Fire Department held an open ceremony honoring Sanders Hicks, Evanston’s first black firefighter and Evanston’s first black fire chief.
Mayor Elizabeth Tisdahl, City Manager Wally Bobkiewicz, City Clerk Rodney Greene, Police Chief Richard Eddington, former Police Chief William Logan, Mr. Hicks’s friends and families, and more than 20 firefighters attended the ceremony.
Fire Chief Greg Klaiber led the ceremony, and said that “this has been a long time coming.” Chief Klaiber said he was proud to “honor and recognize” all that Mr. Hicks had done for the Fire Department of Evanston.
Chief Klaiber spoke about Mr. Hicks’s time in the Fire Department. Mr. Hicks joined on Nov 1, 1950 and in 1973 taught his first Emergency Medical Service class as Assistant Chief of Training, a class he taught in the very room the ceremony took place that afternoon. Mr. Hicks became Fire Chief in May 1987, as a culmination of more than 36 years in the Fire Department.
Chief Klaiber also spoke about “a sensitive subject.” Among other things Mr. Hicks was forced to “eat alone,” and had to use “separate silverware,” said Chief Klaiber. The reason was “racism, nothing but racism.” The Chief said on one occasion he sat down with Mr. Hicks and asked, “How could you endure it?” Mr. Hicks smiled back and said, “Because I love the job.”
Mr. Hicks spoke about his service in the Fire Department. He had originally wanted to be a mechanical engineer and worked at the department between college semesters, “but after four years I fell in love with the service,” Mr. Hicks said. To a round of applause Mr. Hicks added it was, “12 years before I called in sick.” He became a fully licensed in EMS and taught EMS classes in 1973, 1975, and 1976 to fellow firefighters. Mr. Hicks said, “I started the paramedic’s course because I was tired of paramedics telling me I didn’t know what I was doing.”
Mr. Hicks looked over the audience and said, “I’m honored.” Chief Klaiber presented him with a plaque whose twin will sit outside of the room. A black curtain that hung from the ceiling was pulled aside to reveal in bright golden letters Mr. Hicks’s name. “Forever this room will have your name on it,” said Chief Klaiber. The room was filled with applauses for Mr. Hicks and his service to Evanston.