In 1880, when Richard Etheridge became the first African American in command of a life saving station, the Pea Island Life Saving Station on North Carolina's Outer Banks, the four white crewmen quit. Etheridge was free to choose a crew possessing the best qualities of a lifesaver. The crew was all African American, the first such in the history of the service. Led by Etheridge, the men earned a reputation for skill and courage in saving lives during a time of prejudice and racial tension, until the station was decommissioned in 1947. Harrison recounts the station's finest hour, the rescue of the captain, his family and crew, from the schooner E. S. Newman, on the night of October 11, 1896. One hundred years later, on March 5, 1996, Etheridge and his crew were posthumously awarded the Gold Lifesaving Medal, the service's highest peacetime honor.