Beckley’s first African American female firefighter paved the way for her own family

RALEIGH COUNTY, WV (WOAY) –  In 1977, Elizabeth Zeigler, formerly known as Elizabeth Settle, was sworn in as the first female and first African American fire inspector in the State of West Virginia.

She worked for the Beckley Fire Department for fifteen-and-a-half years working her way up to Fire Marshal and deputy assistant to the State Fire Marshal. Now, her legacy lives on as she has inspired her niece and nephew to pursue careers in law enforcement. 

Cpl. Raschard Cox has been with the Raleigh County Sheriff’s Department for almost 12 years, and if you ask him why he chose this path, his aunt is the answer.

“I just remember her coming in in her uniform driving, I think an AMC Eagle, every day, and I took a liking to my aunt pretty good,” he said. 

His sister, Jacqueline Barber, has also been working in law enforcement and corrections for 16 years as she has a job now as a classifications specialist with the Franklin County Sheriff’s Department in Columbus, Ohio. 

“She was the first black woman that I had seen in a uniform and you know, of course as a girl you think, ‘Wow! And she’s my color too, you know? So if she can do it, I can do it!’”

Now, they both do what they love because of people like Zeigler who showed them it was possible.

While both agreed that there is still a ways to go when it comes to diversity in law enforcement and first responder roles, Cox and Barber hope they can take what they learned from their aunt and inspire the next generation. 

“I have more of an understanding to where I can speak with, you know, more people from the community and actually talk to them about how the job is and maybe inspire people from the community to come out as well,” Cox said.

Zeigler left Beckley in 1991 and now lives in Chicago.

Anna Saunders
Anna Saunders is a weekend reporter for WOAY. With a diploma from Princeton Senior High School and a mother from Fayette County, she is no stranger to the area. She received a degree in Media Arts and Design from James Madison University in Harrisonburg, Virginia and wanted to return home to start her career as a reporter.