Holyoke’s first African-American firefighter about to retire

Lawrence Jackson, Sr. joined the department in 1979

HOLYOKE, Mass. (WWLP) – A beloved Holyoke firefighter is calling it a career. Fellow firefighters at Station 6 on Homestead Avenue told 22News that they will miss Lawrence Jackson, a man who taught them so much.

“This is definitely the man, taught me everything I know when it comes to using a fire engine with smoke capabilities. I firmly believe if we need water, he can get it out of a rock,” Lt. David Rex said.

When Jackson became Holyoke’s first African American firefighter in August of 1979, he wasn’t trying to make a statement about race.

“I was thinking about protecting the city. I always enjoyed helping people- I really didn’t have that in my mind,” Jackson said.

Sharing goodbyes with the men at Station 6,  the 59 year-old Jackson- affectionately called “L.J.,” noted this is the station where he began his career 36 years ago. His experience means much to his fellow firefighters.

“It sure does, especially for the younger recruits carry on and pick up what L.J has done throughout his years, also leave their mark on the department,” firefighter Eduardo Medina said.

The initials L.J. will continue in the Holyoke Fire Department with his son, Lawrence Jackson, Jr.

“I’m very glad that he’s following me, and hope he can fill the footprints that I leave behind,” the elder Jackson said.

The Holyoke Fire Department will honor L.J. with a retirement party next Thursday; his final day as a Holyoke firefighter.

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