Pamlico County man's fight to become first African-American firefighter in the county

PAMLICO COUNTY, NC (WITN) As we continue to mark Black History Month, one eastern Carolina man is sharing his story of the fight to become the first African-American firefighter in Pamlico County.

On June 10th, 1975, Lee Gibbs applied to become a firefighter. He says, "The word on the street was they didn't want no blacks."

But Gibbs refused to let others define him by the color of his skin, saying, "So when they said that, I kept pushing. I kept going forward."

When his application was rejected, Gibbs contacted the county's NAACP leader. Less than two weeks later it was accepted.

Gibbs says then Sheriff Leland Brinson, who had played a big part in the reversal of the decision, sent a clear message.

Gibbs says, "He came to my house that morning. My daddy thought I was in some kind of trouble, and he said, 'I'm not going to put up with that mess in my county,' and from then on that was it."

But it wasn't always easy. Amid the toughest of times, it was Gibbs' positive attitude that helped him persevere.

He went on to serve for both the Triangle Volunteer Fire Department and Pamlico Rescue Squad for 23-years.