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The Journey of Kelvin J. Cochran: Shreveport’s First African-American Fire Chief

Civil Rights
Shreveport, LA Fire chief

Born in Shreveport to George and Jane Houston Cochran, Kelvin was six when his father died. The family moved from Alameda Terrace Projects to Brooks Street and Rearsnow Street. At age five, he joined Galilee Baptist Church, where he is still a member. Kelvin recalls sleeping with all his brothers and sisters in one room–four brothers in one bed, two sisters in another. His mother had a difficult time keeping all her growing children in clothes. “Our feet would grow faster than my mama’s pocketbook,” he says. Kelvin sold the Shreveport Sun and the Shreveport Journal. He also worked in restaurants. When a house across the street caught fire, he was fascinated with the fire truck and firemen who answered the call. “I was hooked from that day on. I wanted to be a firefighter,” he recalls. Kelvin graduated from Woodlawn High School in 1978. He attended Louisiana Tech briefly, then was hired by the Shreveport Fire Department in 1981. Kelvin served as an assistant chief and training officer. He completed coursework for a bachelor’s degree from Wiley College in his spare time. On August 26, 1999, Mayor Keith Hightower appointed him the city’s first African-American fire chief. Kelvin married Carolyn Marshall on June 12, 1982. They have three children.

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