Married Chicago firefighters make history

November 14, 2011 (CHICAGO)

Cynthia and Rodney Herring have been firefighters in Chicago for 21 years. They are the first African-American couple to be named captain. Cynthia was first. She was promoted to captain of Engine 1 in June.

Rodney was just promoted a few weeks ago. Until a permanent captain's position at a firehouse opens up, he has to move from firehouse to firehouse. He says the teasing has been non-stop from his colleagues.

"They kept bother me about her being the captain and who is wearing the pants," Rodney said. "They did not know that I was already the captain because she had made it. I was finally happy to make it myself."

"It is very rewarding to reach another level of achievement in the department," said Cynthia. "I have met some amazing people and have developed great friendships."

The firefighters met in class during roll call 21 years ago.

It was not love at first sight. Rodney, an admitted jokester, says he was always teasing Cynthia.

"I started to think this guy is all right when he is not picking at my helmet or messing with me," Cynthia said.

The Beverly couple has five children. They are public school graduates and encourage their kids to do the best.

"Whatever we have done, they can do better. They can outdo us," said Rodney.

They believe it is important to be a role model for younger generations in the African-American community.

"It gives a lot of people that looks like us hope that they can do the same," Rodney said.

"One of the things that encourages me is when kids see me, and the little girls go, 'Wow, I want to be a firefighter too.' It melts my heart," said Cynthia.

The couple says they have had a great deal of support from their family, especially from Grandma Emily.

Cynthia's mother is betting her daughter will make battalion fire chief first. The two are competitive and say they love their work. They believe they are the first couple to become captains coming from the same class.

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