He was one of 10 men who showed remarkable courage by breaking the color barrier in the Durham Fire Department.
Velton Thompson served as a firefighter for 35 years, paving the way for others who wanted to serve. He died Monday at the age of 81. Now only two of the original 10 black firefighters in Durham remain.
Mr. Thompson did not choose an easy path, but he and the nine other firefighters who joined him in that tumultuous period certainly made an impact.
The 10 also formed a strong bond. George King, who was one of the first 10 black firefighters in Durham, said Mr. Thompson had the gift of bringing out the best in people. Mr. King also noted that the entire group supported each other and became a family. This band of brothers who changed the face of our Fire Department and community are the recipients of this week’s Grit Award. Mr. Thompson will be missed. We appreciate the important and community-changing legacy he and his fellow firefighters have left.