Andrea Hall is the Georgia firefighter chosen to lead the Pledge of Allegiance during President Joe Biden’s inauguration ceremony. Hall said in a news release issued by the city of South Fulton that she considers it a “privilege and an honor to help usher in a new chapter of leadership for our country.”
Hall spoke with local NBC affiliate WXIA-TV about the significance of her role at the inauguration. “It really represents an ending of an era and the start of a new era and the opportunities that exist if we decide to honor the words of that pledge.”
Here’s what you need to know:
1. Hall Made History as the First Black Woman Promoted to Captain in South Fulton’s Fire & Rescue Department
Hall, 47, has been a trailblazer throughout her professional life. She has been a firefighter for 28 years and in 2004, she made history in Fulton County, Georgia.
Hall was named captain of the Fire & Rescue Department that year. She is the first Black woman to serve as fire captain in the city’s history, according to a news release from the City of South Fulton.
Hall began her firefighting career in her hometown of Albany, Georgia, in 1993. According to CNN, she was the city’s first female firefighter. She joined the Fulton County Fire Department in 1999. (It became the South Fulton Fire Department in 2018, CBS46 reported).
According to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Hall said she was inspired to become a firefighter by one of her cousins, who became a firefighter first.
2. Hall Is the President of Her Local Chapter of the International Association of Firefighters, Which Was the First Labor Group to Endorse Biden
In addition to her role as fire captain, Hall also serves as the president of the International Association of Firefighters Local 3920. The leader of the entire organization, Harold Schaitberger, explained on the group’s website that the Biden Transition team had reached about to him about providing a member to lead the Pledge of Allegiance at the inauguration.
“When the Biden Senior Transition Team asked me to recommend a union leader and rank-and-file firefighter, my job was easy,” Schaitberger explained. “President Hall organized her local and then passed an ordinance that afforded collective bargaining rights for her members. That was not an easy thing to do in a right-to-work state.”
The International Association of Firefighters formally endorsed Biden for the Democratic nomination in April 2019. The IAFF was the first major labor union to officially back a candidate in the 2020 election, the Washington Post reported at the time. The union did not endorse either Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton in 2016. Schaitberger was quoted in a news release explaining that the union felt Biden “understands the importance of protecting the security of our homeland – that’s why he’s earned the support of the coveted IAFF gold and black brand.”
3. Hall’s Younger Sister Also Became a Firefighter & Refers to Hall as Her ‘Superhero’
Hall’s younger sister, Whitney Williams-Smith, followed in her footsteps and became a firefighter. Williams-Smith was promoted to Chief Fire Marshal at the Savannah Fire Department in August 2020. Like her sister, Williams-Smith made history as Savannah’s first woman and first African-American to serve as Chief Fire Marshal. Williams-Smith started her career in Albany in 2004.
Williams-Smith said she was inspired to become a firefighter herself as she watched her sister climb the ranks. She told CNN she used to “iron fire department insignia patches” onto Hall’s shirts and views her older sister as both a mentor and as her “superhero.” Williams-Smith told the network, “I wouldn’t be where I am today without her. She opened a lot of doors for me.” Williams-Smith was also invited to accompany her sister to the inauguration.
Williams-Smith cheered Hall’s Pledge of Allegiance honor in several Facebook posts. Williams-Smith wrote on January 16, “So proud of my sister. A well deserved moment in history. She is an amazing representation of Women in the Fire Service. It is an honor to have shared my entire life with you AMH. To have learned from the Best 🥰 and now I can brag (as usual lol) This my Bis Sis Yall!!!!!”
4. Hall Says She Practiced the Pledge of Allegiance Repeatedly After Getting the Call
Hall told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution that she remembers reciting the Pledge of Allegiance for the first time at Turner Elementary School in Albany, Georgia. More than 40 years later, she practiced the pledge over and over again to ensure she was ready for inauguration day.
Hall wouldn’t tell the newspaper the exact date the Biden Transition team called her. But she did tell The 19th News that after saying yes, she started practicing repeatedly. Hall made a note each time she recited the pledge. According to The 19th News, Hall had enough tallies “to fill almost an entire 80-page notebook.”
Hall told WFXL-TV she hopes that her moment in the national spotlight will serve as an inspiration to others. “Stay focused on what’s in front of you and even when you come upon obstacles or there are things that you think are slowing you down, just keep your head down,” Hall told the TV station. “Continue to persevere and you just never know where great things are going to come from for you.”
5. Hall Has a Large Network in Georgia Cheering Her On
Hall was permitted to bring one guest with her to the inauguration. But she has a large network of supporters cheering her on in Georgia. In an interview with FM radio station WVEE, which was also streamed live on Facebook, Hall explained that she comes from a large family in southern Georgia. She described her family as “farmers and tradespeople” and “good, hard-working people.”
A few of the people who will be watching the inauguration from home include her sister’s immediate family. Williams-Smith is married to another firefighter, Ronald Smith, and they have two children.
Hall grew up in Albany and graduated from Dougherty Comprehensive High School, which is part of the Dougherty County School System, in 1991. A spokesperson for Hall’s alma mater told WFXL-TV the school hopes Hall’s participation at the inauguration will motivate current students.