Firefighter who sued FDNY to join elite unit dies

Lt. Edward Alston, 79, died of prostate cancer; he became the first African-American firefighter to serve with the Marine Unit

By FireRescue1 Staff

NEW YORK — A retired FDNY fire lieutenant, who sued the department to be a part of an elite unit, died at age 79.

NY Daily News reported that retired Lt. Edward Alston, a black firefighter, died of prostate cancer Saturday.

"We are grateful for the time that he was with us and for all he was able to do in terms of bringing certain issues of racial disparity to light," his son, Daryl, said.

Alston joined the FDNY in 1962 when very few African-Americans would consider becoming a firefighter, according to the report.

"It was the end of his career and he saw the Marine Unit as a promotion by just being there," his son said. "After all those years of running into burning buildings, that's where you wanted to go."

Back then, no African-American FDNY officers were in the Marine Unit.

"It was one of those things where he wasn't expected to go, so that's where he wanted to go," his son said.

Ultimately, Alston sued the department to become a member of the unit, which was granted in 2000. He retired 10 months later.

"It's always sad to lose one of our members, but we know about his great contribution to the fire department and the Vulcan society says well done," firefighter Regina Wilson, head of the Vulcan Society, a fraternity of African-American firefighters, said.

A viewing will be held Friday at 9:30 a.m. and a funeral service will be held at 11:30 a.m.

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