JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – More than 130 years later, the Jacksonville Fire and Rescue Department honored its first line of duty death with a service to set a new headstone for Henry J. Bradley.
A research group of active and retired JFRD members discovered Bradley was buried in the Old City Cemetery but that no headstone marked his grave, which could not be located.
To keep his legacy alive, the group raised money through private donations to purchase a headstone for Bradley, which was unveiled Tuesday at the cemetery at East Union and Cemetery streets.
Bradley was an African American firefighter who died on Dec. 16, 1885, after a blazing wall collapsed on him while he was fighting a massive fire on Bay Street downtown.
The fire destroyed businesses, warehouses and wharves along several blocks.
According to JFRD, Bradley’s death led to a movement among Jacksonville’s insurance companies, which had suffered losses in the fire, to create a paid fire department, and on July 15, 1886, the City Council created the Jacksonville Fire Department.
The motto behind Bradley’s headstone: “Honor the man and the sacrifice.”