Retired Roanoke City Battalion Chief Bobbie Slayton Passes Away After More Than 44 Years of Service

Roanoke City Battalion Chief Bobbie S. Slayton (ret.) passed away on January 8, 2010 at the age of 66 years old.


Viewing: Tuesday at Oakey’s downtown Roanoke 2pm-4pm and 6pm-8pm
Funeral: Wednesday at 1st Baptist Church Downtown 2pm
Internment: Cedar Lawn Cemetery

Bobbie Slayton was hired by the Roanoke Fire Department on December 6, 1965 at the age of 21. He retired on July 1, 2010 after more than 44 years in the department as Battalion Chief 2 (Northside) on C-shift. Slayton is considered the 2nd longest* serving firefighter in Roanoke City’s history.

So many firefighters have had the honor of working along side¸and even more working under Chief Slayton during his years. Slayton was a Battalion Chief for around 25 years, having been promoted in 1985. When he was first promoted to Chief he was a District Chief. Several years later, they renamed his position to that of Battalion Chief. This is only one of the hundreds of changes Slayton saw over his tenure in the fire department.

Chief Slayton in front of his Chief's Buggy when the title was District Chief

More links to information on Bobbie Slayton at the bottom of the article

L-R 1st row: Danny Hughes, Charlie Fields, Bobbie Slayton, 2nd row: Clayton Sink, Wayne Hudson, Don Hawley¸and Gary Moorefield.

As a matter of fact, when Slayton was hired the department only had 2 platoons (or shifts). It wasn’t until 1972 that they added the 3rd platoon (creating A,B, and C shifts). Slayton’s career would span some of the most active firefighting years in the Nation’s history. This includes the late 1970’s and early 1980’s when America was burning.

There is little doubt that when Slayton was hired, he went directly to station #1 and at some point in time jumped out of the hay loft into a life saving net held by the other firefighters. This was a right of passage for years.

One of Slayton’s first assignments was on ladder 2 at firehouse 7. The crew on ladder 2 was Danny Hughes, Charlie Fields, Bobbie Slayton, Clayton Sink, Wayne Hudson, Don Hawley¸and Gary Moorefield.

Willie Wines Jr. has a great post on Bobbie here

Certainly, Chief Slayton saw more change occur in this department than any other current firefighter. Some would joke that he saw the change from horses to gas powered fire apparatus. That change was 50+ years before Slayton was hired, but he did see many other huge changes in apparatus technology. Slayton was very involved in apparatus purchasing and presided over the apparatus committee for years up until his retirement.

Later, Slayton would work at other firehouses as well. When he worked at firehouse 9, it is said that  Slayton and his crew could tear down an automobile engine in the bay, rebuild the motor, and have it reinstalled by that evening.

Captain Tony Young (ret.), Chief Bobbie Slayton, FF Willie Wines Sr. (ret.) at the Richard Petty Driving Schoo

When firefighters retire, their legacy remains. Slayton’s legacy will be preserved by the fact that his son, Zach, is now a Roanoke City firefighter. His legacy will also be preserved through the hundreds of stories and tales he has told and is involved in. Fourty-four years of service equates to many great stories.

I had the pleasure of working for Chief Slayton for several years while on C-Shift. Most recently, I worked for Chief before being moved to A-shift at my current assignment.

Chief Slayton was great at story-telling as long as you had some time. Chief didn’t skimp on the details. Even if it took him a couple of minutes to remember a name, a face, or an address of a fire from 20 years ago he would recollect until it came to him.

I can remember going to him several times when writing “Firefighting in Roanoke” for details about fires or more importantly having him identify a firefighter in a picture. His knowledge of the fire service and our fire service in Roanoke was so valuable.

Ever since I came to the department in 1999, people would ask him when he was retiring. It wasn’t so much as a slight in trying to kick him out the door¸but more so a question of how long he planned on staying. He almost never gave an answer.

Chief Slayton

Chief Slayton’s retirement party was well attended. They had a party at administration for him and then we had a larger get together at the Union Hall. He told us that retiring and leaving the fire department that he loved so much was one of the hardest things he has ever had to do.

I can only imagine how difficult how it would be to leave something you had done for 44 of your 66 years on this earth.

With tears in his eyes, Slayton tried his best to explain to everyone how  much he loved the fire department and fire service. Little did he know that we already knew. He had showed us. In showing up to work every shift for 44 years, he had shown us that no matter what…he loved what he did.

It is only fitting that the last post I made on the long running and now stagnant Roanoke Fire Blog is of his retirement party(link).

Rest in Peace Brother. We will take it from here…

*The only person to have worked in the department longer is Captain Walter A. Dodson who worked from January 2, 1929 til September 29, 1972, a mere 2 months longer than Slayton. There are only a handful of firefighters who have earned the right to say that they worked for the department for more than 40 years of dedication.

Me and Chief Slayton at his retirement party.