Roanoke Life Saving and First Aid Crew

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I will attempt to give Julian Stanley Wise the courtesy of correct data below. I do not understand why out of several of the history books of Roanoke, Wise is only mentioned a little bit. So here you go… A look into the Roanoke Life Saving Crew. I will let you know now, there is a lot more history out there, I just have to find it.

One interesting note, which I have not yet been able to collaborate, is that if you look at the RFFA Roster in The Maurice Wiseman Project you will see Julian S. Wise hired September 3, 1932 and Retired April 30, 1945. I do not have a picture of Julian Wise, however if you follow some of the links, you will see his picture. UPDATE: A reader sent in this photo of the Roanoke Life Saving Crew. I believe that Julian is the 4th from the left in the first row. Thanks for the photo.

Pictured Guy Zimmerman, Charles Paxton, Wills.

The Roanoke Life Saving and First Aid Crew was formed by Julian Stanley Wise in 1928.

“The life saving crew was given an ambulance equipped with a lung motor and collapsible boat on October 9 (1929) by John M. Oakey, Inc.” (The History of the City of Roanoke pg. 697)

Wikipedia has more information about Julian Stanley Wise located.

“Julian Wise died in Roanoke on July 22, 1985, at the age of 85. In a poignant twist, the Roanoke Life Saving and First Aid Squad received a call five hours after Wise’s death for a possible drowning in the Roanoke River. The thirteen-year-old victim was successfully saved.”(Read More)

Roanoke Emergency Medical Services website offers this:

“On a May afternoon in 1909, a boy on the bank of the Roanoke River watched helplessly while two men struggled in the water trying to reach their overturned canoe.

Bystanders shouted hoarse advice and tossed branches into the stream. The men kept crying for help — then suddenly, they were gone.

Memory of the scene haunted the boy for years. It was a needless tragedy — there should be a means of quick rescue for accident victims.

Just 19 years later, in May 1928, Julian S. Wise, the boy grown man, organized with nine other volunteers, the Roanoke Lifesaving and First Aid Crew, the first of its kind in America.

As its fame spread, other communities have founded lifesaving crews on the Roanoke, Va., model…

And what do the members receive for their labor and the risking of their lives?

‘It’s hard to explain,’ Wise said, ‘but once you feel a human life come back under your own hands, that’s all the reward you could ask.” —– Readers Digest, February 1945 (taken from

Members are demonstrating loading/unloading a patient. This unit is an International Travelall Ambulance.

Glasgow Life Saving and First Aid Crew has some pictures located here from when Julian demonstrated some equipment for them.

From the Lynchburg Life Saving Crew:

The next thing needed for the start of Life Saving Crew operations was an automobile. In July of 1934, through the generosity of our friends at the Roanoke Life Saving Crew, we received our first Life Saving Crew vehicle. The 1918 Cadillac Ambulance, which had been previously discarded, came equipped with enough light rescue equipment to handle most ordinary emergency cases. Our first vehicle contained numerous first aid supplies, a Stokes splint stretcher, two army liters, splints, axes, and grappling irons. The new Ambulance, which was painted all white and assigned to the Rivermont Fire Station, was put into service on September 16, 1934.(Read More)

Lynchburg’s Ambulance, which was originally one of Roanoke Life Saving Crew’s.

Williamson Road Life Saving Crew

Waller Cecil “Pierre” Doss shown inside the Williamson Road Life Saving Crew/ Roanoke County Fire Station #10/ Roanoke County Police Department. This station was originally at Williamson and Fugate, next to where the 7 Eleven is now. Pierre was a Chief in the County. When Roanoke City annexed the area in 1949 Pierre came to work for the Roanoke Fire Department. Later on the Williamson Road Life Saving Crew moved to the station on Oakland, which now houses Lifeline ambulance.

Notice the phone number to dial for assistance.

As with everything, you are welcome to comment, correct me, or point me in the correct direction for further information. This post might have been the most time consuming of all of them, and yet I am still not satisfied with the outcome. It seems as though not too many websites have a lot of information on Julian S. Wise or the Roanoke Life Saving Crew. I had found some information on the Hunton Life Saving Crew, but I am unable to locate the url now. I thought it was hosted at the Harrison Museum of African American Culture. I think that this Life Saving Crew was the first Black crew, or the first all Black crew. I know that there are still members in the Roanoke Fire-EMS who used to volunteer with Hunton, Williamson, and Roanoke Life Saving Crew.

Look for more information in the future.

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