Diamond was, in fact the last company to accept black drivers. As far as I am aware, there were three segregated companies: Yellow, Liberty and Diamond.
When I came to Diamond, the first black American driver was still there, Mr. Alston, #42.
At one point, Jimmy Heffner, who was the rental manager at Yellow drove for Diamond. He told the story how he desegregated Yellow. It seems that this black driver, a retired D.C. Fireman, came there to rent, as they made you rent for a while at Yellow before they would take you as a private owner. The boss told Heffner to make him sit on the bench and tell him that there were no cabs available. This went on for three days until Heffner told the boss that either Heffner was going to give this guy a cab or the boss was going to tell this Fireman that he was not going to get a cab. The boss backed off and told Heffner to give him a cab, then went around there telling everyone that Heffner had pressured him into letting a black guy drive at Yellow. Heffner said that he took quite a bit of grief for that.
I know for a fact that Heffner is dead. Alston is probably, as well. I remember when he left, because he told me that he was taking off time because his health was failing him, but that he hoped to be back. He always had a buffalo nickel in one ear.
Up until 2007, the driver card file was still in the office. Gloria Sartori, who was front desk Secretary from 1947-1989 maintained it. She typed the race of each driver onto a card and put it into the file. She would type 'Nigerian' for any black African (if you want to make a Ghanaian or a Sierra Leonian angry, call him a 'Nigerian'). She would type 'Arabic' for any middle Easterner, even Persians or Afghans (if you want to make a Persian angry, call him an 'Arab'). Pakistanis and east Indians were 'Hindu', black Americans were 'Negro' and white Americans were 'White' or 'Caucasian' as were some of recent European origin, although some of those were identified by the country of their birth. The file was still there in 2007, although I have no idea if it is still there. The first driver to get the designation 'Nigerian', Mr. Bernard Obi, cab #658, is still at Diamond.
I do not know from where Mr. Obi comes.
P.S Mr Obi is from Ghana.
This post is written by Phil the Dispatcher,
copy and pasted (stolen) by Mad Cabbie.
Thanks Phil, and don't forget the homeless,