Brown, Chief of Birmingham
R. A. Brown, veteran of thirty-five years in the service, has been named Chief of the Birmingham, Ala., Fire Department, succeeding B. O. Hargrove, who had headed the department since 1933.
Chief Brown, who was born in Norwich, England, came to the Fire Department by way of the United States Army, where he served as a volunteer during the Spanish-American War and as a Coast Artilleryman in the regulars until 1902.
Coming to Birmingham shortly after his discharge, he joined the Fire Department in June of 1902. Since then he has won steady promotion.
He waited four years for his first promotion. He was elevated to the rank of Captain in 1906 and remained a Captain until 1921. From then on his promotion was rapid—Batallion Chief in 1921; Second Assistant Chief in 1924 and moved up to First Assistant Chief three months later.
Chief Brown is perhaps the only fireman in the South who can claim the unique distinction of having frozen his hands while fighting a fire in a Southern April! It occurred when a hose connection to a carbon dioxide tank broke, allowing the gas, escaping at a temperature of 110 degrees below zero, to come in contact with his hands while he tried to repair the connection.
Former Chief Hargrove, under the civil service rules of the department, reverts to the rank of Second Assistant Chief, the rank he held when promoted to Chief.
Chief Hargrove, who is eligible for retirement, is taking a two weeks’ vacation to consider whether he will retire now on a Chief’s retirement pay or continue as Second Assistant Chief and accept the lower retirement pay of a Second Assistant, when he is ready to retire.
Commissioner Eugene Connor, head of the Department of Public Safety, in announcing Chief Brown’s promotion, took the occasion to praise former Chief Hargrove for his efficiency as a fire fighter. Birmingham’s fire rate dropped remarkably during his administration.