‘Legend and Trailblazer:’ Meet Mississippi’s first Black female firefighter
JACKSON, Miss. (WLBT) - You would agree that being a successful firefighter requires a certain degree of toughness.
For years in Mississippi, it was a white male-dominated profession until that is, Laverne Sing came along.
Sing admits becoming a firefighter was not on her radar, let alone being the first African American female firefighter in Mississippi. It was the mayor of Greenville at the time who reached out to Sing.
”So he’s asked me, he said, ‘How would you like to be a firefighter?’ And I said to him, ‘A who?’ He said, ‘A firefighter.’ He said a quota has to be met, and we need a woman; does not have to be white, blue, yellow, or green. We just need a woman, and I feel that you are more than qualified,” Sing said.
Sing, a mother of three who was also caring for a disabled sibling back then, was a school crossing guard for the Greenville police department, making 300 dollars a month. She says it took a week for her to finally agree to the mayor’s offer, not realizing until much later that she was also making history in 1979.
”I mean, it was just, it was so much prejudice going on during that time when I got here,” Sing said.
She said there was also a lot of disrespect and some dirty tricks she reported to the then-chief.
“I said someone put a condom on my food in the refrigerator. He said to me, ‘If you don’t know who did it, don’t worry about it,’” said Sing.
Sing says her initial uniform was a pair of bell-bottom jeans and a t-shirt, the same attire of Parchman inmates. That changed after protests. What everyone at the Greenville Fire Department would soon learn is that Laverne Sing was no pushover, which she attributes to her tough beginnings.
“During the time when I got hired, it was, you know, it was a lot of prejudice,” Sing said. “I mean, on both sides, black and white, and I got to the point I just started naming different guys how they were, you know. I call them cheese eaters. You know, I did that, you know, and then I was speaking to the black ones then. And the white ones, I would tell them I would just tell them directly, ‘Y’all are just prejudiced.’ What was their response? They wouldn’t.”
”I did have a reputation,” Sing said. “I used profanity. Curse them out. I say things that a female shouldn’t have said, but it was in me.”
It was that determination and her ability to do all the tasks, including driving the big firetrucks, that ultimately earned Laverne Sing the respect of her fellow firefighters back then and to this day.
”She means so much to this department,” said former Greenville Fire Department captain Tony Pratt. “She’s a trailblazer, and certainly she’s the mother that many people that were on the fire department didn’t have because she actually nurtured majority of us.”
”A trailblazer. A legend. Someone that has paved the way not just for female firefighters but firefighters that have come after her. So again, definitely a trailblazer,” said Greenville Fire Department Chief Ruben Brown, Sr.
Sing still visits the Greenville Fire Department. She also continues her work in the profession part-time with Pafford Emergency Medical Services. She has been honored by the state of Mississippi.
Congressman Bennie Thompson has entered her into the Congressional Record and she has also authored a book about her experience titled “From the Cotton Fields to the State Capitol.”
”As far as I’m concerned, I can say this. I am 79 years of age, and I feel that out of all these years, that I have accomplished in my life was God’s plan for me,” Sing said.
A plan that has paved the way for so many others.
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