GREENSBORO, N.C. (WGHP) — Ray Flowers was Greensboro’s first Black fire chief and among the first group of Black firefighters the department hired.

He passed away Saturday at 83 after battling a short illness.

On Sunday, the flags flying outside Fire Station Seven on Gatewood Avenue in Greensboro were lowered to half-staff as a way to honor a fire chief who spent many of his years calling it his second home.

“He was a leader…if we needed advice, he gave it,” Kenny Flowers, Ray’s cousin said.

He was a leader to his family at home and his family at the firehouse.

“Ray was an engaging person. He was fun-loving and fun to be around. He had that great smile that would light up a room,” Kenny said.

For nearly four decades, Ray made saving lives his career.

He joined the Greensboro fire department in 1961 as a 21-year-old N.C. A&T State University graduate.

In 1988, he was named deputy chief. In 1993, he became the fire chief.

“He was such a humble person. He wouldn’t tell that story loudly. To hear other people tell it for him made it…special,” Kenny said.

During Ray’s early years as a firefighter, he drove for Station Seven. It was the same station dedicated to him in December of last year.

Ray took part in the ribbon cutting.

Current Fire Chief Jim Robinson said Ray “represents everything that is right with public safety and the Greensboro Fire Department.”

His family is proud a man they cherish and look up to make such a big impact on other lives.

“His legacy would be the impact that he has had on us. I appreciate that. As a young man growing up, Ray had a huge impact on my life. I will miss him dearly,” Kenny said.

The family is in the process of making funeral arrangements.

On Sunday, the Professional Firefighters of Greensboro posted a tribute to Ray on Facebook saying in part:

“The Professional Fire Fighters of Greensboro are saddened at the loss of former Greensboro Fire Chief Ray Flowers. Chief Flowers was a trailblazer for African Americans in the fire service.”