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Buffalo, NY Appoints First African American Woman Fire Lieutenant

Buffalo, NY Appoints First African American Woman Fire Lieutenant

 Photo via: Desiree Moore 

History was made in Buffalo, New York this past week after Shelby Thompson was sworn in as the city’s first African American woman Fire Lieutenant.

Recognized in Mayor Byron Brown’s State of the City address, Thompson reveals that her path to her highly esteemed position has not always been easy. She first joined Buffalo’s Fire Department in 2000 and tells Buffalo’s NPR news station, WBFO 88.7, that she had taken the firefighter exam several years ago in an attempt to provide a better life for her family. However, she says, she didn’t receive a call back about a position until roughly six years later.

“When I got the call, I was in the mall,” she says. “I started screaming really loud and was dancing in the mall.”

While Thompson admits that she knew she was going to be the first Black woman in her position, she says she didn’t really focus on that aspect. Instead, she says, she was just really humbled to be able to step into her new role.


“Once I got on the department, I quickly realized I was blessed with this position to be a blessing to somebody else,” she says.

Thompson, who is one of very few women in her field, says that she’s far from intimidated by her male colleagues. In fact, she says, they’ve creating a close-knit working bond that mirrors that of a tight family.

“They have your back,” she says. “They give you a lot of support. It’s really awesome because it’s a close-knit family when you get to work with a crew. You guys get to know each other. You’re working with each other all the time, so you develop that friendship that turns into a family relationship.”

During Mayor Brown's State of the City address, Thompson paid tribute to her children with a double sided picture frame of her son, who passed away last year, and an image of a mother duck with three ducklings. WBFO 88.7 reported, "Thompson explained that when younger, her children would walk behind her in chronological order." 

CongratulationsLieutenant Thompson! Thank you for blazing a trail for others to follow.