Second president of the
International Association of Black Professional Fire Fighters
Philadelphia fire fighter Charles Hendricks before taking the helm as IABPFF president he was our Inaugural Treasurer for the first 10 years of our organization. Brother Hendricks’ wife Ethel says “No matter what organization that Charles belonged to he usually ended up becoming treasurer.” She said “He always wanted to know where the money was”. The fact that we have an organization that has been able to survive financially for 50 years is a testament to the unquestionable legacy of Brother Hendricks. A founder of Club Valiants, Inc. of Philadelphia, he was one of the approximately 250 attendees at the first meeting of Black fire fighters held October 1969 in New York. Mrs. Hendricks reflected on the years before the 1969 first meeting of Black fire fighters from across the country. She said “We would always have such a good time attending each other’s events from Baltimore to Hartford. “She would
often hear them say, “We need to start an organization” so when the decision was made and it was time to put the work in, Sis. Hendricks, like all the wives during that time, was very supportive, which added to the success
of the efforts of their idea to establish the first ever Black fire fighter’s organization.
Past President Hendricks was present at the first planning meeting in February 1970; for the first National Convention of Black Fire Fighters, that would be held October 1970 in Hartford Connecticut. Brother Hendricks being part of many community, civic, education, youth and social organizations in Philadelphia, along with being chairman of the board of
trustees in his church, he jumped at the chance to be part of forming a national organization of Black professional fire fighters. Being an integral part of the 9 months of preparation for this Inaugural Convention, the Valiants, one of
the 5 founding organizations, were responsible for the Membership and Dues Workshop. It was only natural for him to take on some type of leadership position in the newly formed International Association of Black Professional Fire Fighters and instinctively it would be the treasurer.
Brother James Lee approaching 90 years old has been part of the IABPFF from the suggestion of the idea in July of 1969. He said. “Charlie Hendricks was a gentleman. I always marveled at how smart those guys were”. As his spouse Mrs. Hendricks could not help but to notice the strong bond of brotherhood between her husband and David Floyd, our founding president. “They traveled together all the time to build up their new organization”. “I always loved going to the conventions and didn’t miss one until recent years”. She also talked about the support system the dynamic duo of IABPFF founding president and treasurer had for each other. How enthusiastic and committed they were in their leadership position. Always in communication with each other, talking on the phone often many times every week. They would even attend meetings of her International Toastmistress group which gave them skills that helped enhance their natural leadership in their new positions representing The IABPFF. They took the best practices of already established institutions along with finding organizational strategies that were the foundation of building an organization that would stand the test of time. Sister Hendricks recalls how surprised she was at the moment
when Brother Hendricks decided to be dedicated to something bigger than himself. “We were on vacation, and Charles had brought all these books as study material for the next promotional exam”. While sitting on the beach
in Wildwood, New Jersey he simply said, “I’m not going to read all these books, and I don’t want to be an officer. I can do more as a fire fighter than I can as an officer. As an officer you are beholden to someone who is over you
and they can put more pressure on you”.
AW! “The Good Old Days” when we put our selfish, opportunistic instincts aside and made our decisions to sacrifice for the greater good of our people. The good thing about the examples set by people like Past President Hendricks; some of us have shown that you can gain position and power, and still “Lift as You Climb”. After 10 years President Emeritus David Floyd concluded his calling as Inaugural President of The International Association of Black Professional Fire Fighters and Brother Hendricks like many others wondered who would be the best person to lead this still young
organization of Black Professionals in the fire service. Working so closely with the founding president for a decade, innately he made the decision to offer himself up to be the next president. James Lee refers to the relationship
between Brothers Floyd and Hendricks as “Excellent”. He recalls the election following the David Floyd presidency. “I don’t remember if Charlie Hendricks ran unopposed; but I do know that there was no competition”. Described by his son-in-law Reginald Walker as “A leader who rose out of his people, but never above them”.
Appointed to the Philadelphia Fire Department (PFD) in the late 50’s, Brother Hendricks was one of the 5 original plaintiffs in the lawsuit Commonwealth v. Rizzo. February 15, 1979 he and the others put their jobs on the line and
stood up to one of the most powerful mayors in the country, to addressed the issue of discrimination in Philadelphia’s Fire Dept. A winning lawsuit was not the end of his efforts, he did grassroots recruiting everywhere he went. Many African American fire fighters in Philadelphia followed the proposition of Brother Hendricks “Even if you don’t want the
job, just take the test! “Retired Commissioner Lloyd Ayers, Past Club Valiants President, Northeast Regional Director and IABPFF Vice- President remembers Brother Hendricks as “A Special Guy ”, who was very personable and devoted to the growth of The IABPFF. “He stayed on us about the need to be unified. He encouraged us Valiants to network with the other IABPFF chapters from across the country.” “Although he was a fire fighter you would have thought that he was a chief. Even the Chief’s acknowledged him, while they were in his presence”.
Brother Ayers, appointed to the Philadelphia Fire Department in 1974 to 2014 and was in the last class of recruits before the federal consent decree for PFD was implemented. Brother Ayers shared with Brother Hendricks the gratitude of many who he touched personally and professionally during his lifetime in the final days prior to his
transition on May 5, 1991. The response from Past President Hendricks was simply” As Long as You Know”. I interpret that to mean we all need to know the sacrifice that was made by the people who paved the way for us to benefit
from the fruits of their labor. I feel we all should be obligated to make our own contributions to The IABPFF to ensure that it not only survives, but thrives over the next 50 years. We are blessed to have had two of the greatest visionaries of their time to be inaugural officers and leaders of the IABPFF during our growth years. They were extremely prepared and set the tone of a smooth transition of power, with a pass the torch mentality that the race for equality must continue. The David Floyd & Charles Hendricks relationship went beyond this life.
After the death of his friend, brother and partner in the movement, President Emeritus Floyd advocated for 5 of the most important organizations that Brother Hendricks served in, commission an artist to do a bust of him. This bust was unveiled in May of 1993 at the Afro-American Historical and Culture Museum in Philadelphia. This bronze sculpture
memorializes Past President Charles Hendricks at the Valiant’s Hall in Philadelphia as an appreciation of his sacrifice and a reminder of his legacy. The next Smoke Newsletter articles commemorating our Golden Anniversary will
be coming from the living past presidents in their own words. They will be given the opportunity to share with us how their presidency help shapes The IABPFF. Fortunately, the 4 years of the Charles Hendricks presidency has some
documentation and we will let the following speech give you an idea of his work during the time of his administration.