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Lexington’s First Black Fire Chief Named

Lexington’s First Black Fire Chief Keith Jackson greeted by Mayor Jim Gray

Posted online June 28, 2012
Updated: July 2, 2012

LEXINGTON – The interim title has been removed as Mayor Jim Gray makes Keith Jackson Lexington’s permanent Chief of the Division of Fire and Emergency Services.

Public Safety Commissioner Clay Mason had a lot of faith in Jackson and said that he never considered him the interim Chief and credited him with making ‘Radical improvement in pretty short order.”

Chief Jackson is a 21-year veteran of the Fire Department who has worked his way up, serving as firefighter, paramedic and, when he was a major, supervised the hazardous materials team. Jackson will retire as a Lt. Colonel in the Army Reserves this year. He served as an Operations Officer and had 850 soldiers under his command as a Battalion Commander of the 373rd QM Battalion.

“When I think of Keith, I think of these words: discipline, loyalty, country, community, service, friends, family,” Mayor Gray said to the large crowd gathered.

In attendance to see Jackson presented with the Chief badge were that the State’s First Black Fire Marshal Bill Swope, community leaders that included Jackson’s pastor Rev. T.H. Peoples and John Drake, Lexington first Black firefighter. Family members there included Jackson’s mother Beverly Miller and his grandparents, Richard and Cora Briscoe, who were celebrating their 67th wedding anniversary that day.

“He comes from a fine family in Lexington that has served this community well in a number of ways,” said former Chief of Police Anthany Beatty, who only missed the ceremony because he was not in town. As Lexington’s first Black Police chief Beatty has been able to offer a lot of perspective to Jackson. Beatty said their relationship is mainly professional and once Jackson was appointed as interim chief, they had conversations about politics and his role in leadership.

Beatty is proud of Jackson and the community. “It’s certainly historic given the history of race relations and politics in Lexington to have him as chief of the fire department. It’s a proud moment for him, his family and the community.”

Jackson was appointed interim Chief in March 2011 when Mayor Gray asked for the resignation of then-Chief Robert Hendricks. Hendricks did not resign and finally accepted a firefighter role within the department making way for Gray to appoint his permanent replacement.

In his remarks, Jackson expressed thanks for the opportunity and for believing in him. In a Key Conversations Radio interview a few days later host Lezell Lowe congratulated Jackson who described the experience as a 16 month job interview. “Evidently I did a good job and I was afforded the opportunity to become the chief.’’

Jackson has two daughters who live in Louisville and earned a bachelor’s degree in communications from the University of Kentucky.

Chief Jackson has set his own lofty goal for his tenure. He said, “My goal is for us to be recognized as one of the most disciplined and organizationally sound departments in the community and this country.”

RELATED STORY: Brown Outs Put Chief and City Officials Under Fire May 22, 2012

 To hear a Key Conversations Radio interview with then, Interim, Chief Jackson click here and scroll down for the April 29 interview. 

 

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