Mayor Tom Butt took a moment Tuesday night to commemorate the 74th anniversary of a fire that claimed the lives of eight Richmond shipyard workers who served on the homefront during World War II.
Their names were James Manney Jr., Neal McDowell, Frank Morris, Fred Shepard, James Shepard, Preston Stubblefield, O.D Wheeler and Ernest Williams
In a Facebook post, the mayor told the story of their tragic end:
“The shipyard workers were eight African American men who lived in a segregated Kaiser Shipyard housing unit called Dormitory O – a building designated for single black men working on the homefront. At approximately 2:10 AM on January 10, 1944, a fire broke out at Dormitory O, which was located at S 11th St. and Potrero Ave. Richmond firefighters responded to the blaze but discovered that the fire hydrants near the dormitory were rusted and unable to access water. The dormitory burned to the ground causing both injury and death amongst its residents. The tragedy of Dormitory O is one that is largely forgotten and gained little attention in its aftermath. It is a story, however, that carries significance within the history of our city and country and deserves to be remembered. Since 2016, I have been working alongside Betty Reid Soskin and sculptor Mario Chiodo to honor the lives of these men through a monument. The monument intends to honor the service of the eight Richmond shipyard workers and pay tribute to the thousands of men and women who lost their lives on the homefront while building our freedom.”