Lenoir’s first African American firefighter dies at 76

Lenoir’s first African American firefighter dies at 76
Warren Harper, the first African American to join the fire department with the City of Lenoir, passed away at 76 on Nov. 14. (Source: City of Lenoir)

CALDWELL COUNTY, N.C. (WBTV) - Warren Harper, the City of Lenoir’s first African American firefighter, died at the age of 76 over the weekend.

City officials broke the sad news Thursday and extended condolences to Harper’s family. They confirmed Harper, who retired in 1999 after 30 years of service to the community, died on Saturday, Nov. 14.

Fire Department Chief Ken Hair, who was an engineer when Harper was still with the department, worked with the former firefighter for the last seven years of his career with the city.

“On behalf of the City of Lenoir Fire Department, we would like to extend our sincere condolences for the family of Warren Harper,” Chief Hair said. “We will truly miss Mr. Harper, who was affectionately known as ‘High Pockets’ because he was a mountain of a man. In his day, he was one of the best firefighters this department had ever seen. He always faced challenges head on, which led to him being the first African American firefighter hired by the City of Lenoir.”

Hair continued, “Even though he blazed the trail by being the first African American firefighter, he preferred being known simply as a City of Lenoir firefighter instead. Mr. Harper was accepted as one of the guys because of his character, and that allowed him to charter the path of diversity for others to follow at Lenoir Fire Department. He mentored and helped develop many young firefighters at the department during his tenure. He will be remembered for being full of life and never meeting a stranger. He was a friend to all and an absolute joy to be around.”

His obituary states Harper will lie-in state on Monday, Nov. 23, from 11 a.m. until 1:30 p.m. at Evan Funeral Home.

A graveside service will be held at 2 p.m. at Harpertown Community Memorial Cemetery, conducted by Pastor Myer Dahn.

Full Military Honors will be provided by the NC National Guard and the Caldwell County Veterans Honor Guard.

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