Forgotten Heroes: The Captain Kitchen Story

James Gold Kitchen was born in April 1881 in Virginia and came to Memphis with his family in 1902. He went to work as a traveling telephone switchboard instructor with the American Bell Telephone Company. He married in 1908 and in 1910 joined the Memphis Fire Department. Kitchen was assigned as a Ladderman on hook and ladder Company 1 at 65 S. Front Street and Union Avenue.

He was promoted in 1914 to Lieutenant of Steamer Company 3, located on DeSoto Street (now S. Fourth St.) between Beale and Linden Avenue. In 1920 he was promoted to Captain of Engine Company 8 at 832 Mississippi Blvd. During this time, Kitchen took several correspondence classes and, in 1926, was promoted to superintendent of Fire Alarm, which was in the rear of Fire Headquarters at 65 S. Front St. at Union Ave.

On Saturday morning, July 29, 1930, he was at his desk in the Fire Alarm office when he was stricken with acute appendicitis. He was transported to Baptist Hospital where he died on the operating table. Capt. Kitchen was 49 years old. He was a Mason and is buried at Elmwood Cemetery.

His son, Augusts Clyde “A. C.” Kitchen had been born Jan. 6, 1909. A.C. joined the Memphis Fire Department on August 8, 1930, and was assigned to Engine 9 at Fire Headquarters, 65 S. Front at Union. He left the MFD in 1940.

His War Years

The mission of the OSS was to serve as specialists in demolition, languages and weapons. This group of highly trained, adaptable men were experts at destroying German assets, teaching, and supplying the French resistance movement and the underground and, in general, making the Germans unhappy. Members group could speak French, Italian and German. They were also experts in operating and repairing all weapons made during that time, especially shotguns.

A.C.’s group entered France several months before the Normandy invasion. They scouted and mapped German defense systems and gave that information to U.S. and British Air defenses, which heavily bombed the German sites.

The OSS was the forerunner to the CIA and the Green Berets. The men were fearless and Augustus Clyde Kitchen was one of them, a member of an elite force of specially trained U.S. soldiers.

Leon Panetta, former director of the CIA and  Secretary of Defense from 2009 to 2011, said, “His group changed the war and saved the world from tyranny.”

In 1950 A.C. was rehired by the MFD and assigned back to Engine 7 as a driver. With his military and command experience, he was promoted to Lieutenant of Engine 15 in 1953 and in 1955 to Captain of Engine 15 at 1010 Faxon Ave. at Decatur. He was transferred to Engine Company 26 at Frayser Blvd and Millington Rd in the late 1960s, where he remained until June of 1972. 

I had a chance to chat with two long-time Memphis firefighter friends who worked with Capt. Kitchen. Both said he was good to his men and was never rattled or scared. He let the men do their jobs the way they were trained to do them. He always treated the men with respect, and both liked working with him.

Seven months after he retired, A.C. Kitchen died at his home in Dec. 26, 1972, of a heart attack. He was 63 years old.

He served as a Captain from 1956 to 1972. That we can work with a guy for 30 years and never know what kind of impact he had on the lives of everyone he met is so interesting to me. But Capt. A.C. Kitchen was a hero.



Scott Rayl American Legion Historian. “Stories behind Stars”

Memphis City Directories 1900 through 1969

Retired Memphis Fire Fighter Lieutenant James Murray

Retired Fire Fighter Paramedic Captain  Al Bell

Our Memphis History.Com Research Historians

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