By Terry Rogers
There have been many families who have contributed to the success of Milford, but not many like the Fountain family. When reviewing some of the “firsts” in Milford, the name Fountain often appears. Hayes Edward Fountain, Sr., was born August 21, 1918, the third son and fourth child of the late Asbury and Martha Curry Fountain. Mr. Fountain attended Benjamin Banneker School before matriculating to Delaware State College. He was a World War II veteran, serving in the United States Navy.
For most of his life, Hayes was self- employed, operating a number of businesses in Milford. He ran a taxi cab service, an auto repair shop and a school bus/motor coach company, a business he became well-known for. He often refused to accept payment for trips he took with churches, bands, scouts and other organizations he supported, choosing to drive the bus himself. He was also employed by PNC Bank and its predecessors for almost 30 years. He helped in his family businesses, the Moonlight Grill and the Gun and Rod Club.
On March 21, 1962, Hayes was sworn in as the first African American police officer on the Milford Police Department under William M. Short who was then the Chief of Police. In the 1970s, Hayes became the first African American Kent County Deputy Sheriff. He always claimed to be proud of his service on the police force.
Individuals that knew him said that Hayes had an outgoing personality and was always willing to lend a helping hand. In his spare time, Hayes enjoyed hunting, playing the trumpet, working on vehicles and sports. He was the first trustee of the William Henry High School, St. Paul United Methodist Church and Wesley Chapel United Methodist Church. He was a member of the Methodist Men, Milford Lions Club and Milford Planning Commission. He was also very proud to have reached 32nd degree in the Masons. Hayes was married to the Mary, who died before him, and they had a daughter, Karen, a son Hayes “Sonny,” William “Billy” Robert “Bobby” and Darryl. Hayes passed away at the age of 92 in 2011.
In 1969, William “Penn” Fountain, Hayes’ brother, was chosen as the City of Milford’s first black Vice-Mayor, extending the influence the Fountain family has had in creating the City we know today. Franklin Fountain paved the way for African- Americans who wished to join the Carlisle Fire Company. Franklin submitted his first application to the fire company in 1963, but his application was rejected. At the same time, Kenneth Fountain applied, also receiving a rejection. Franklin applied in 1967, 1968, 1969 and 1970. His application was accepted by the membership committee in 1968, but denied by vote of the general membership.
“I kept trying,” Mr. Fountain said. “It wasn’t that I wanted to be the first black in the company, I just knew I could do it and do it well.” In 1970, Bradie Worthy, Kenneth Fountain and Joseph Tull became the first African Americans to be accepted in the fire company. Franklin was not admitted until 1974. He said that some members of the company had worried that he would be a “troublemaker” as he had reached out to the NAACP when his application continued to be rejected. He said he did not really “blame them” but he wanted people to know it was his push to join that led to the integration of the company.
After joining, Fountain said that some of the older members had trouble with him being a member, but that younger members treated him fine. He said that some members balked at his driving the trucks, but an engineer, Charles Vanaman took him under his wing and taught him. Today, he says there is not any issue with his skin color among members and that he sees a much different attitude in Milford today than he did over 40 years ago.
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