Augustus Beekman (March 28, 1923 – November 29, 2008) pictured above, served as both Chief-of-Department and Fire Commissioner in his long tenure with the FDNY.
He was the 23rd Fire Commissioner and the 2nd African-American Fire Commissioner in the history of the FDNY and was an ardent supporter of the Civil Service Merit System.
In Peter Micheels book, Braving the Flames, Chief Beekman wrote, “Once I was in the Fire Service I became aware of the promotion structure. I felt it was possible to make the Fire Department a career, not just a job. You could advance on your merit, and I made the decision relatively early to try to do so...In those days blacks had a better chance of making in the civil service than in the public sector, and I was in a department wherein the promotion process seemed to be as objective as it could be - and I still think it is – because it didn’t involve your name or an evaluation. All you had to do was take an exam, and based on marks and seniority, a list of promotions was published. It was all out front, there was no subjectivity in it – no interviews where you might run into cultural bias or any of that.”
Like many of the men who got on the FDNY in the wake of WW II, Chief Beekman cherished and supported the merit system, for the same reasons everyone else did – because it offered a system by which people were judged on the OBJECTIVE criteria of an exam and NOT the subjective parameters of an interview.
The civil service merit system is still the same one that Chief Beekman praised, even though the standards applied at each level have been watered down since his time.