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Hundreds say goodbye to slain Ala. firefighter

Birmingham Firefighter Jordan Melton was remembered as a great up-and-coming firefighter with a big personality


The funeral of Birmingham firefighter Jordan Melton at Faith Chapel Wednesday July 26, 2023.

Joe Songer for

By Carol Robinson

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. — Hundreds paid their final respects Wednesday to slain Birmingham Firefighter Jordan Melton, who was gunned down while on duty two weeks ago at Station 9.

The 29-year-old Melton, affectionately known by many as Chato, was remembered as an ambitious young man with an infectious smile and an unfailing love for those around him.

“When Jordan loved you, you knew that he loved you,’’ said close friend Larry Williams. “There was no room he could be in and you not know he was there.”

Melton and Firefighter Jamal Jones were shot July 12, shortly after they began their shift. They were performing routine maintenance in the station’s bay area when a gunman entered through the open bay door and opened fire in what police say was a targeted attack.

Melton died five days later. Jones remains hospitalized.

No arrests have been made, and a reward of more than $40,000 remains in place.

His funeral began at 12:17 p.m. at Faith Chapel Christian Center. That time was chosen because it’s the time that Melton was as born on Feb. 28, 1994.

The service was followed by a procession from Faith Chapel to Elmwood

The Rev. Eric Harris led the service, which included numerous reflections from those who knew him best, including his mother, Rochelle Malone, who was presented with the flag from her son’s casket and with his fire helmet.

“On July 12, a fire was set. It’s not your place to fuel it but to extinguish it,’’ Malone told the crowd.

“It’s time to do the most, for real, for real. Let’s set a blaze of transformation for new mindsets. Let’s set a blaze of transformation for new responses, and let’s set a blaze of transformation for reaction to hurt, anger and vengeance and revenge.”

“Dear friends, never take revenge,’’ Malone said. “Leave that to the righteous anger of God.’’

Melton joined Birmingham Fire and Rescue Service in 2022, and officially became a firefighter in a June ceremony.

“Jordan was a great up and coming firefighter, but he was already a great person when we got him,’’ said Birmingham Fire Chief Cory Moon.

Melton, the chief said, had a love for sports, a love for business and, more than anything, a love for his family.

“Jordan had a big personality and a smile that could light up a room,’’ Moon said. “When I saw his smile, I saw hope. I saw the future of the fire department.”

“Though Jordan was stolen from us too soon, that hope and his spirit, will live on in all of the people he has touched during his lifetime and beyond,’’ Moon said. “I want all of you to know Jordan will not be forgotten.”

“Rest in power,’’ he said, “your shift is complete.”

State Rep. Juandalynn Givan, a close friend of the Melton family, described Melton as a chef, a fly guy, a football player and forever a Hoover Buc.

“We came to celebrate and give honor to a hero, a first responder, someone that I believe now is no longer local but universal,’’ Givan said.

Givan said she was delivering a message from Malone, Melton’s mother: ‘’Put the guns down. If you have to fight, fight like a man. Men fight with their fists, not with guns.”

“When we were growing up,’’ Givan said, “we had a saying – ‘When you fight, you live to see another day.’ If you can live to see another day and fight with your fists, you will die without honor. Whatever you do, do not take the life of another man.’’

“We should not be here today,’’ she said. “We should not be in this church today to honor Jordan for this reason. We should be here to honor him for all of his efforts of saving the life of another.”

Birmingham Mayor Randall Woodfin was emotional in his remarks.

He said he has visited with Jones, who is still hospitalized.

“Every time I have visited him, he has been more concerned about his colleague, his co-worker, than himself,’’ Woodfin said.

The mayor recalled meeting Melton at his firefighter graduation ceremony.

“42 days ago, on a stage similar to this, I was honored to shake hands, high-five a new class of recruits,’’ Woodfin said. “I embraced Jordan as he came to the far right of the stage.”

“I want to tell you all what I remember the most,’’ he said. “An amazing smile. Jordan has a very, very special smile, a smile that puts you at ease, a smile full of joy, full of life, full of peace. This was a kind man.”

“My favorite part about him in the short time I got to spend with his family – the calling he wanted, the dream, the passion, what he wanted to do in life was literally tugging on him and that was to become a fireman.”

“He could have chosen any fire department in the region, in the state. He chose Birmingham,’’ he said. “There is no better, greater camaraderie, brotherhood and sisterhood than firefighters.”

“I think it takes a very brave soul to become a fireman, because it is a life of service and sacrifice,’’ he said. “On behalf of a very grateful city, we honor Jordan Melton for his sacrifice, for his bravery.”

Jefferson County Sheriff Mark Pettway said he had known Melton for several years and had tried to recruit him to become a deputy, but Melton’s passion was to become a firefighter.

“He broke my heart,’’ Pettway said. “Chief Moon, you owe me one.”

“We have to find better ways to resolve conflict. It is our community that is dying,’’ the sheriff said. “We can do better, and we must do better.”

Other reflections included video statements by former Hoover High School football coach Josh Niblett and NFL quarterback Jameis Winston.

Melton was active in youth sports in Hoover and went on to play as an offensive linebacker in high school, graduating from Hoover High in 2012.

Niblett said Melton had great energy and put forth great effort.

“I’m blessed to have known him, blessed to have been able to coach him,’’ he said.

“Life is short, and life is precious, and we all have just a few opportunities to make an impact on people in our lives,’’ Niblett said. “So, live in the moment, give God all the glory and, Jordan, you’ll be missed but never forgotten.”

Winston said he and Melton played sports together as children and had remained friends.

“His undeniable will and his passion about sports translated to everything that he did in life,’’ Winston said. “You couldn’t tell him what he couldn’t do. He was going to find a way to figure it out, with that smile on his face.”

“I’m so grateful to have seen his resilience, to see him persevere through anything and everything.’’ Winston said. “I’m just honored to have been his friend and to witness the impact and legacy that he has had on all of his friends.”

Jefferson County Bessemer Cutoff District Attorney Lynneice Washington presented a resolution on behalf of herself and District Attorney Danny Carr.

“It’s not goodbye, it’s goodnight,’’ Washington said. “And if we all live right, we’ll see him in the morning.”

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