Wesley Williams was the third black male to join the New York Fire Department. The first was William H. Nicholson who was appointed in 1898 and shortly after detailed to the veterinary unit. He retired in 1912. The second was John H. Woodson, 1914 – 1936, assigned to L-106 in Brooklyn. Wesley was appointed June 10, 1919 and assigned to Engine 55 in Manhattan. Williams was also one of the founders of the Vulcan Society.
He was born on August 26, 1897, to James Henry Williams and Lucy Metrash in Manhattan, New York City. His father was chief of the Red Caps at Grand Central Station in Manhattan. He married Margaret Russell Ford on November 6, 1915 in Westchester County.
He was inspired to join the New York City Fire Department when he read about Samuel Jesse Battle joining the New York City police department. The first African-American to join the New York City Fire Department was William H. Nicholson, who joined in 1898. Williams joined on January 10, 1919, and he was assigned to Engine Company 55 in Manhattan, New York City. He was promoted to lieutenant in 1927.
By 1940 there were 40 Black men in the Fire Department, all facing similar problems. Chief Williams suggested the men organize. The Vulcan Society was born. In 1944 the Vulcan Society forced a public hearing before the City Council to expose some of the segregated practices. As a result, a clause was passed in the regulations banning racial practices in the Fire Department. Wesley Williams never held office in the Vulcan Society but was the spirited force behind the Society. The Vulcan Society was the first organization to purchase lifetime membership in the NAACP. Wesley Williams died at 86 years on July 3rd, 1984.