by Patrick B. McGuigan, editor
OKLAHOMA CITY – Kelvin Cochran, keynote speaker for the Family Policy Institute of Oklahoma (FPIO) First Amendment Banquet, decided to become a fireman at the age of seven, after seeing firefighters put out a fire just across the street from where he lived with his mother and siblings.
Cochran fulfilled his dream as one of the highest-ranking African-American firefighters in U.S. history.
From 2008 until early this year, he served in a series of top leadership positions, both at the local and the national level.
As part of his keynote address at the FPIO event, Cochran recounted his faith journey, which began at Galilee Baptist Church in Shreveport, Louisiana, when he accepted Jesus Christ as his personal savior at the age of seven.
In the course of Bible Study leadership in recent years, he crafted a book aimed at adult men entitled, “Who Told You That You Were Naked?”
Cochran’s meditation on human sinfulness, in the words of reviewer Victorena Minchew, “mentions homosexuality twice, briefly, and in passing.” In clear language, Cochran described homosexual activity as sinful and contrary to God’s law.
Cochran’s references to Scripture and homosexuality triggered a furious response from some activists for gay, lesbian and bisexual advocacy groups.
After a month-long suspension on orders of Atlanta’s mayor, Cochran was fired and to left his post atop the fire-fighting agency. He has assumed a new cause, defending traditional morality and Bible-based beliefs.
In her review at Amazon.com, Michew continued, “The book is about Adam and Eve’s fall from grace in the garden of Eden, hence the title, and how we as Christians can draw closer to God by putting the Lord first in all things and not succumbing to the temptations of the world.”
In his Oklahoma City speech, Cochran recounted ways his long career as a firefighter prepared him for the unexpected assaults on his public service and integrity. He contrasted “self-inflicted” turmoil of the sort reluctant prophet Jonah faced in the Old Testament, versus “undeserved” attacks for following God’s word.
Chief Cochran said he remains confident that “God has a track record of standing up for those he loves.” He encouraged fellow believers not to feel “condemned and deprived,” but confident in the knowledge they are “redeemed and restored.”
Cochran said that although he lost his “childhood-dream-come-true” job, he could not abandon Biblical views. He believes life has “Kingdom consequences. They are always greater than worldly consequences.”
Cochran’s long career in fire services began in Shreveport, in 1981. He rose steadily through the ranks to become Fire Chief in 1998. He moved to Georgia in 2008 at the request of then-Mayor Shirley Franklin of Atlanta, who appointed him chief for the Fire Department.
Then, in August 2009, President Barack Obama put Cochran in charge of the U.S. Fire Administration in the federal Department of Homeland Security. Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed asked him, in June 2010, to return to Georgia, again as Atlanta fire chief, the position he held until his departure in January 2015.
Cochran and his wife Carolyn have been married for 32 years. They have three adult children and one granddaughter. They couple presently are members of Elizabeth Baptist Church in Atlanta. He ministers there as a deacon and teacher/facilitator.
FPIO Board of Directors member David Howell welcomed attendees to the first-ever public event for the group. Organizers told CapitolBeatOK the First Amendment Banquet was intended to serve “as a public platform for individuals who have provided courageous and exemplary service to their fellow citizens in defense of America’s First Amendment freedoms: religion, speech, press, assembly, and petition for redress of grievances.”
The FPIO benefit attracted local ministers and public officials, and notable sponsors. State Rep. John Paul Jordan, R-Yukon, and Tom Newell, R-Seminole, were in the crowd, along with former Warr Acres Mayor Marietta Tardibono.
National attendees included attorneys and others from the Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF). ADF staff held a training seminar for pro-family activists the afternoon of November 2, featuring founder Alan Sears (who departed the city before the evening banquet).
FPIO founding president Timothy Tardibono introduced Chief Cochran after dinner.
In welcoming remarks, Tardibono recounted his journey from serving as a policy aide to well-known conservative leaders, including former U.S. Sen, Tom Coburn. He described the call he felt to reestablish an organization forcused on multiple moral and social policy issues, with a perspective rooted in Biblical morality. His wife Marilyn, whom he described as his steady support forming FPIO, also attended.
Clarence Hill, FPIO board member who attended with his wife Alicia, provided the invocation. Hill is founder of “Eye to Eye,” a marriage enrichment ministry.
Jennifer Blount rendered a sterling a capella version of the Star-Spangled Banner. Trail Life Troop 63 honored the flag, with six young men leading the Pledge of Allegiance and posting the colors.
Support for the event came from Tom and Kay Hill, David and Susie Howell, Josephine Freede and the Bott Radio Network. Tardibono thanked each “for their gracious and unwavering encouragement and advancement of the original ideas and principles of America’s founding.
Their support has been instrumental in the origination of this first annual banquet.”
The group’s information describes FPIO as a 501 c 3 research and education organization “dedicated to development positive policy ideas and innovative programs to protect families and strengthen communities.”
For more information about the Family Policy Institute of Oklahoma, contact [email protected], telephone 405-664-6514 or inquire via U.S. mail to Tardibono and his colleagues at P.O. Box 1097, Bethany, OK 73008-1097.