The First: Fire Commissioner Robert O. Lowery’s Story

“The First: Fire Commissioner Robert O. Lowery’s Story,” an FDNY Pro Film, depicts the life and career of Commissioner Lowery, the FDNY’s first Black Fire Commissioner.

“Its really an essential part of his story to understand how much he had to overcome, what was going on in the city of New York at the time, and to think about the fact that someone who wouldn’t be allowed to sit at the kitchen table could one day become Commissioner” (Fire Commissioner Laura Kavanagh).

With interviews from members of the Lowery family, Mayor Eric Adams, FDNY officials and members of the Vulcan Society, this film dives into Robert O. Lowery’s journey during very consequential years in the Department, and the City’s history.

About Fire Commissioner Robert O. Lowery:

Robert O. Lowery joined the Department in 1941 and was assigned to Ladder Company 34 in Manhattan. In 1946, he transferred to the Bureau of Fire Investigation and served as a Fire Marshal for 17 years, where he was cited numerous times for his outstanding investigative ability. He was an active member of the Vulcan Society, serving as its president multiple times in his years of service. In 1961, he was appointed to the rank of Acting Lieutenant, where he was responsible for establishing a community relations program for the Bureau of Fire Investigation. In 1963, he was appointed Deputy Fire Commissioner and charged with increasing diversity within the ranks of the Department. On January 1, 1966, he was sworn in as Fire Commissioner by Mayor John V. Lindsay. He served for eight years, during an unprecedented period of fire activity known in the Department as “The War Years.” Commissioner Lowery resigned from his position in September 1973.

FDNY Pro Films are generously supported by the FDNY Foundation.

© 2024 FDNY and FDNY Foundation