Frank Bailey – Firefighter and activist 26th November 1925 – 2nd December 2015
Frank was an activist and fought for injustices until the end of his life.
Originally born in Guyana, he left for New York to work on a German trade ship after graduating school.
His second job was in a hospital where he staged a walkout protest against the segregation of dining rooms for different types of employees.
After moving to London in 1953, he became a political activist member of the West Indian Standing Conference.
Upon learning that the Fire Brigade didn’t employ Black people, he joined the West Ham Fire Brigade in 1955.
He explained that “I was told that the authorities were not hiring Black men because they were not strong enough physically or well educated to do the job.
I immediately recognised racism and said I’m going to apply to be a firefighter and see if they find me unfit.
I saved a fellow firefighter’s life when he fainted while we were on the fifth floor of a ladder drill session.
I brought him down to the ground in a fireman’s lift. The guy’s weight was 16 stone and he was 6’2.”
Frank became a union representative and the repeated denial of promotions pushed him to leave his post in 1965.
Naturally, Frank moved into social work and became the first Black legal advisor for Black youths at Marylebone Magistrates Court.
His Daughter Alexis said “He loved to quote his hero Thomas Paine, the political activist: “The world is my country, all mankind are my brethren, and to do good is my religion.”
I didn’t always appreciate it when I was growing up, but my dad showed me that hard work pays off and you can make a difference if you’re passionate and relentless.
The issues he came up against – racism, discrimination, and inequality – are still relevant today and I’m grateful that he inspired me to be brave and fight for what I believe in”.
Frank passed on the 2nd December 2015 and was featured on a Google doodle on what would have been his 95th birthday.
We at Adeptales salute you, Frank Bailey.
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