AURORA, Colo. (KDVR) — The City of Aurora announced Friday that a portion of East 16th Avenue will be renamed in honor of Aurora Fire Rescue’s first African American firefighter.
An honorary street sign reading Ruben Sims Jr. Ave. will be placed between Florence Street and Emporia Street near the fire rescue’s historic Fire Station No. 1, according to a press release.
“This honorary street sign celebrates this extraordinary icon for diversity within the fire department and the city of Aurora,” Aurora Mayor Pro Tem Curtis Gardner said in a release.
Ruben Lewis Sims Jr. joined the fire rescue team in 1977 and served as a firefighter and an engineer until he retired in 1997.
Sims attended junior high and high school in Denver. He played the clarinet throughout his youth and went to the Berklee College of Music.
After college, he served in the U.S. Army. He wrote music for the NORAD band, which was composed of musicians from the U.S. Army, Navy, Air Force and the Royal Canadian Air Force. He was honorarily discharged from the Army a couple of years before he became a firefighter.
On Sept. 11, 2006, Sims died of cancer at the age of 55.
Travis Pulliam, president of the Local 1290 firefighter’s union, said Sims was a cheerful and beloved member who gave his life for his community as a first responder.
“It is likely that the cancer which took his life was the result of his many years of exposure to carcinogens while fighting fires,” Pulliam said.
During his career, Sims helped recruit minorities to the fire department and took part in cultural celebrations like the Juneteenth Parade and the Black Arts Festival. Gardner said he “broke the color barrier and acted as the forerunner for racial minorities within AFR.”