Legacy firefighter who broke barriers at the FDNY passes the torch to his 3 sons

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Monday, April 10, 2023
Legacy firefighter passes the torch to his 3 sons after 40 years
The Thomas family is believed to be one of the largest legacy families of color on the force. Crystal Cranmore has the story.

BROOKLYN HEIGHTS, Brooklyn (WABC) -- A legacy FDNY firefighter took his final ride with his Brooklyn firehouse after 40 years on the job.

Throughout his career, 65-year-old Robert Thomas broke barriers and turned his job into a family affair.

"I said when I'm leaving I'm going to have claw marks on the floor," Robert Thomas said.

On Monday, his journey with the New York City Fire Department 40 plus years in the making came to an end after reaching the mandatory retirement age.

He's leaving a mark in more ways than one with three adult sons following in his footsteps as members of the FDNY.

The Thomas family is believed to be one of the largest legacy families of color on the force.

"Single memory was having my boys on the back step," Robert Thomas said. "The things we did that entire day priceless."

Thomas joined the department at a time when it was almost exclusively white.

Now about 9% of the FDNY is made up of Black men and women ready to serve their communities.

The longtime firefighter has played a role in encouraging more people of color to join the department.

But there's no one Robert is more proud of than his boys.

"Every parent should have a goal of having their kid on a job like this to help make them the person they need to be able to be," Robert Thomas said.

Thomas sons didn't always want to become firefighters. Stephen Thomas said the turning point for him was seeing his father respond to the call of duty on 9-11.

"He did everything he can to help and I always respected that," Stephen Thomas said.

As Robert starts his next chapter his sons know they have big shoes to fill.

"Such an accomplishment he was able to come and make his mark," Jason Thomas said.

Robert will now turn his attention to his community program called Smart Choice Parent, which helps underserved parents get access to resources to better care for their children.

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