Fire Chief Henry Allen retires after 37 years

Published 2:00 am Wednesday, September 23, 2009

SELMA — Imagine it. Thirty-seven years on the job.

Now imagine 37 years on the job fighting fires and performing rescues.

Selma Fire Chief Henry Allen has just about seen it all during his career with the Selma Fire Department.

“You have to give God the glory and the honor,” the retiring fire chief said. “I have learned to be a servant. I have learned to be a servant during the good times and the bad times. And there have been some bad times.”

Tuesday night during the Selma City Council meeting, Mayor George Evans read a proclamation honoring the fire chief on his years of service.

Allen was hired in August 1972 as Selma’s first African-American firefighter. He rose through the ranks, becoming a lieutenant in 1977 and a captain in 1992.

In 1995 the Selma City Council unanimously hired him as the city’s first African-American fire chief.

But those are not the only firsts Allen has accomplished. He also was among the first African-Americans to enlist in the Alabama National Guard in 1965, according to Evans.

He retired from military services as a sergeant first class after 24 years.

After Evans presented Allen with the proclamation, Selma City Council President Dr. Geraldine Allen complimented the fire chief for his years of service to the people.

The retiring chief received a standing ovation by those attending the council meeting at City Hall.

Allen’s official last day is Sept. 30.

A reception and party is planned in his honor Monday, 6-10 p.m. at the Convention Center.

“The chief said he would volunteer to help the new chief,” Evans said. “Volunteer to help the new chief.”

The council and mayor have yet to discuss publicly a replacement for Allen.