Remembering the Charleston 9: James “Earl” Drayton

Everyone called James Drayton “Earl”. His brother, Vernon Drayton, says Earl was most himself at the firehouse.


Drayton says, “He felt at home with the firefighters”.

So much so, that after Earl retired from the Charleston Fire Department, he missed it so much he went back to work.

Drayton says, “You could tell he wasn’t satisfied, you know, it was like we was lost. So he went back, and once he went back he felt a little more content.”

Vernon is Earl’s younger brother by four years and says throughout his life, Earl was his hero.

He says, “There was something special about him. And I just liked to hang close to him.”

He says Earl always knew what was right and became a guiding force for any of his siblings who wandered off track.

Drayton says, “I loved the way he carried himself. I was always on the wild side and I didn’t see that in him. I was encouraged by my sisters and mom to stay close to him. He was going in a positive direction and I was going in a negative direction, so they encouraged me to follow him. With his help I was able to turn it around.”

He says Earl showed that same guidance to his brothers in the fire department.


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