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James Albert Fields became Pittsburgh’s first male crossing guard after a 29-year career in the U.S. armed forces. (Photo courtesy Sylvia Robinson)
City Council passed a resolution March 9 to honor the memory of Pittsburgh’s first male school crossing guard.
After retiring from a 29-year career in the U.S. Army and Air Force, James Albert Fields, Sr. began another long career — 20 years — as a school crossing guard.
“He had applied for the job and he didn’t get it,” said his step-daughter Sylvia Robinson. “So he went to the Commission on Human Relations and filed a suit on sex discrimination.”
“Mildred Slatic, the supervisor that hired my dad, felt that he was one of the best guards that she ever had,” Robinson said.
Born in 1928 in Bessemer, Ala., Fields moved to the Northside as a teenager and attended Oliver High School. He lived on Reedsdale Street on the North Shore near present day Heinz Field. After graduating from Oliver, he served as a paratrooper in the U.S. Army.
After about four years in the Army, according to Robinson, Fields enlisted in the Air Force. There he achieved the position of master sergeant and became a substance abuse counselor. During his long career he served in Buffalo, N.Y., Boston, Mass. and Washington, D.C.
After moving back to Pittsburgh, he married Elva Fields in 1973 and the two lived on 1927 Buena Vista St. in the Central Northside until his death on Feb. 4, 2010.
Fields left behind his wife Elva, four children, eight grandchildren and five great-grandchildren.
For the majority of his years as a crossing guard, Fields gave school children the right-of-way at the corner of Pennsylvania Avenue and Fulton Street in Manchester.
“The kids loved him,” said Robinson. “They gave him gifts at Christmas time and Easter baskets at Easter.”
The resolution said because kids began calling him “Top Sergeant,” he got a special license plate that read “TOP SGT.”
City Council President Darlene Harris, who knew Fields from his volunteer work as an usher at St. Matthews Lutheran Church, sponsored the resolution.
“He’d be very proud to know that the city of Pittsburgh was honoring him in this way,” said his wife, Elva.