Towns (Royal E.) Papers

Group of Oakland firefighters standing on fire engine
Group of Oakland firefighters standing on fire engine, circa 1950s, Royal E. Towns papers, MS 26, African American Museum and Library at Oakland, Oakland Public Library.

Royal E. Towns (1899-1990) was born February 10, 1899 in Oakland, California to William and Elizabeth Scott Towns. Towns was raised in West Oakland and attended West Oakland Free Kindergarten and married Lucille Dennis in 1920. He worked for a short time as dining car waiter before joining the Oakland Fire Department as a hoseman at Engine No. 22 in 1927. In 1941, Towns became the first African American to be appointed as the fire department’s chief operator, and eventually was promoted to lieutenant, a position he would hold until his retirement in 1962.

The Royal E. Towns Papers consists of photographs, correspondence, publications, financial and legal records, and ephemera that document Towns’ work as a City of Oakland firefighter, photographer, director of public relations for Free and Accepted Masons of California, and as an amateur historian.

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Dates: 1857-1990
Collection number: MS 26
Creator: Royal E. Towns
Collection Size: 17.8 linear feet (30 boxes + 1 oversized box)

Guide to the Royal E. Towns Papers

Available at the African American Museum & Library at Oakland (AAMLO)

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