Chief Duane E. Mallery

By Joe Lowry
Edited by Trish Gully

From chasing fire engines on his bicycle to jumping up in school and running to the windows to see the fire engines, to leaving class while at Tech High and going to fires during school, Duane Mallery was destined to become a firefighter, and what a firefighter he turned out to be.

Duane Edward Mallery was born in 1919 and lived most of his childhood life at 322 N McNeil St. near Peach.  Engine 15 from 1010 Faxon at Decatur Street was “first due ” at his home.  

In October of 1941, at age 22, he entered the Memphis Fire Department working in the Fire Alarm Office; as soon as World War II was declared, he enlisted in the United States Army, 8th Air Force, 392 Bomb Group, where he served as a tail gunner on a B-24. After the war, he returned to the MFD; he was assigned to Engine 12 and then to Engine 16 as a Private and quickly made a Driver. He lived at 1075 Philadelphia Street, three blocks west of the 16s. During his time as Driver, he rode his bicycle while mapping his territory, split numbers, and unique locations in the Cooper-Young, Orange Mound, and The Fairgrounds. He was always drawing maps and trying to gain as much knowledge as possible. In 1951 he was promoted to Lieutenant of Engine 16, and in 1955 promoted to Captain of Engine 12, then Engine 3.  In 1956, he served as Captain on the Multimaster. During this time, he started drawing Pre-Plans for the department ‘Set Up Books”. During this time, he would flow test all of the hydrants in the area of each “Special Location.” These buildings in Memphis posed a High Value or posed extreme dangers to the fire fighters.

Captain Mallery was a prominent worker with the Boy Scouts, serving as a merit badge proctor for Firemanship and First Aid. He helped coach hundreds of boys in Memphis, just like me. I met him for the first time when I was a member of Troop 75.

In 1957 the Civitan Club awarded him their Public Service Citizen of the year award. This award hung on the wall of his den, and he was always proud of it.

On December 21, 1961, he was promoted to District Chief, and along with Firefighter Jack Bacon, they became the MFD Water Distribution Unit. Chief Mallery knew more about water supply for firefighting than anyone else in the department.

On July 1, 1968, he was promoted to Deputy Chief and became the Fire Marshall; he remained in this position until 1971 when he retired and was asked to create the Shelby County Fire Department with almost a nonexistent budget from scratch.

For years he was an active worker at Temple Baptist Church. He lived his faith in the way he dealt with people. He always had your back, and you knew it. He was fair in his decisions and mentored so many young men. His two daughters and wonderful wife, Mary, supported him in everything he did. Chief Mallery died on January 6, 2007. I was asked by his family to do the eulogy at his funeral, which I did proudly.

8 thoughts on “Chief Duane E. Mallery

  1. What a wonderful story of a great men. It is so good to read stories of this nature about the dedicated people of Memphis instead of just the crime. Thank you.

  2. What a great story about a dedicated man. It is so uplifting to read about some of the people that made Memphis a great city instead of just the crime. Thank you.

  3. Many unsung heroes, like Mr. Mallery, come and go from our world without much notice from those around them. Nice to see Joe capture one of these for all of to appreciate and remember. It reminds us that there are lots of good, dedicated men and women in our midst. We should acknowledge them whenever we can.

  4. Great article Joe, I met Chief Mallery when he formed the Shelby County Fire Department. He included me in the first probationary class as I was on lone from the Germantown fire department. From that class I developed life long friends, some who I got to meet this past June 4, for the 50th anniversary of the SCFD. I got to visit with Chief Mallery shortly before he passed away on January 6, 2007. He was telling me stories about helping his church and changing out the light bulbs on a rickety ladder. Once a fireman always a fireman.

Leave a Reply