(CNN)The New York City Fire Department announced the renaming of a department medal of valor, citing the "deeply racist beliefs" of the award's first namesake.
The James Gordon Bennett Medal first awarded in 1869 was named after the department benefactor who endowed the award at the time.
Now the annual award will bear the name of the highest ranking FDNY member killed on September 11, 2001, FDNY Commissioner Daniel Nigro announced on social media Tuesday.
"The James Gordon Bennett Medal was endowed by its namesake to honor Firefighters who saved his home. However, Bennett also held deeply racist beliefs and used his newspaper to repeatedly express hateful views in full support of slavery. These views have no place in any society, and I believe we must cease including this individual's name, and therefore his legacy, in our annual celebration," Nigro said.
The newly named Chief of Department Peter J. Ganci, Jr. Award commemorates the fire chief who after a 33-year FDNY career was killed September 11, 2001.
Ganci held every uniformed FDNY rank and received numerous citations for bravery during his career, including a medal for rescuing a child from a fire, the announcement says.
"This award for bravery should not be tied to someone who never served the FDNY, risked his life to save others, and who advocated for hate and slavery. That award should be named for the Chief who was leading our troops on our darkest day, a great man who gave his life overseeing the greatest rescue operation in FDNY history," Nigro said in the announcement.
The annual FDNY Medal Day ceremony scheduled for June was postponed due to the coronavirus, but a socially distanced ceremony awarding the newly named medal will be held later this year, according to the announcement.