My dad, Rev Dr Lloyd E. Marcus, Jr is a black pioneer of civil rights. In 1952, when the door opened for blacks to take the test to become Baltimore City firefighters, Dad ran through it. Stationed at Engine 6, Dad’s working conditions were humiliatingly racist. He was not allowed to pour himself a cup of coffee from the same coffeepot as the white firefighters. Nor was Dad allowed to use the same eating utensils as the whites. Still, with a wife and five kids to feed, Dad relished the opportunity.
Dad was the assistant pastor of a Baltimore storefront church. Rejected by his fellow firefighters, Dad often retreated to the fire house’s storage room to read his Bible and pray. Taunting Dad, firefighters named the storage room Marcus’ chapel. After two years, a new firefighter was assigned to Engine 6. The white firefighter came upstairs and asked Dad to join the crew in a cup of coffee.
Dad eventually defeated racism via trusting God and striving for excellence. Dad won “Firefighter of the Year” two times. Dad’s career included becoming Baltimore’s first black paramedic. After retiring from active duty, Dad became Baltimore City Fire Department’s first black chaplain.
My brother who is an award winning Maryland police officer recently purchased a home. His new neighbor is a white retired Baltimore City firefighter. Recognizing the name Marcus, the elderly gentleman told my brother, “I remember your dad at Engine 6, a great man!”
Raised by Aunt Nee, Dad always sought opportunities to better himself and earn his own way. As a little boy, Dad earned as much as $5 over a good weekend shining shoes at the Greyhound Bus Station in Baltimore. Dad smiles reminiscing about how he put on a show for his customers to encourage tips; tossing his shoeshine brushes high into the air and catching them, making rhythmic popping sounds with his shoeshine rag. He paid Aunt nee 25 cents for his room and board. He purchased a t-shirt for $1 and bragged to his buddy that he was a man because he was buying his own clothes. I am still discovering additions to Dad’s long list of jobs, entrepreneurial endeavors and “firsts” for a black person.
In his late teens, Dad joined the Merchant Marines. He was the first black sailor to land in St Petersburg Florida. It almost cost Dad his life. Local whites chased Dad wanting to hang him for simply getting off the ship. Fellow white sailors saved Dad’s life.
My 90 year old dad is still showing me what it means to be a man. Dad was married to my mom Rodelle for 45 years until she died. His second wife of over 20 years recently passed away. Dad is lonely, riddled with Arthritis pain and diagnosed with serious health issues. Dad was in the hospital for four days due to fluid build up in his feet.
Wanting to exercise his legs, Dad asked a hospital staffer to help him walk the halls. Dad is extremely weak and can only walk with baby steps. He saw an extremely weak elderly gentleman who also walked in baby steps. Dad said the man looked exceedingly sad and depressed. Dad asked the man, “Want to race?” The man chuckled.
The next day, Dad saw the man walking the halls. The man’s spirits seemed lifted. With a smile on his face, the man asked Dad, “Want to race?” Both men enjoyed a laugh.
When I arrived to take Dad home, Dad expressed how pleased he was that God used him to help brighten that man’s day. Dad instructed me to always be willing and ready for God to use me.
That’s my Dad, the greatest man I have ever known. Dad is in hospice. Here is a song I wrote and recorded to Dad 30 years ago. Enjoy. https://bit.ly/2rdwlXF