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<Mechanics and Mechanical Engineering>

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Blanton, John W.
Birth Year : 1922
Death Year : 2003
John W. Blanton, born in Louisville, KY, was the son of John O. and Carolyn Steward Blanton. He was a retired General Electric Aircraft Engines executive. He received GE's Gerald L. Phillippe Award for distinguished public service in 1981 and was inducted into the GE Aircraft Engine's Propulsion Hall of Fame in 1991. He was president of the Urban League Board of Greater Cincinnati and was an original member and former president of the Southwest Ohio Regional Transit Authority (SORTA). Blanton was a 1943 mechanical engineering graduate of Purdue University. He is buried in Cincinnati, OH. For more see K. Andrew, "Obituary: John Blanton, 81, GE executive," Cincinnati Enquirer, 05/11/2003, Metro section, p. 5B; and "John W. Blanton" in vol. 1 of African American National Biography, edited by H. L. Gates, Jr. and E. B. Higginbotham.
Subjects: Migration North, Mechanics and Mechanical Engineering, Urban Leagues
Geographic Region: Louisville, Jefferson County, Kentucky / Cincinnati, Ohio

Boyd, Henry
Birth Year : 1802
Death Year : 1866
Henry Boyd, who was born a slave in Kentucky, was an inventor, carpenter, and a master mechanic. He invented the corded bed - The Boyd Bedstead. His profits from his carpentry work also allowed him to buy his own and his family's freedom. In 1843 he was among the most successful furniture makers in Cincinnati, Ohio. For more see The Mis-education of the Negro, by C. G. Woodson; Created Equal, by J. M. Brodie; C. G. Woodson, "The Negroes of Cincinnati prior to the Civil War," The Journal of Negro History, vol. 1, issue 1 (Jan. 1916), p. 21; and History of the Negro Race in America, 1619-1880 by G. W. Williams.
Subjects: Businesses, Inventors, Migration North, Carpenters, Mechanics and Mechanical Engineering
Geographic Region: Kentucky / Cincinnati, Ohio

Dinwiddie, William Thomas
Birth Year : 1865
William T. Dinwiddie was born in Lincoln County, KY and he grew up in Danville, KY. After his graduation from the Danville Colored school, he completed a two year course at Knoxville College and later graduated from Meharry Medical and Dental School [now Meharry Medical College, School of Dentistry] in Nashville. Following his graduation, Dr. Dinwiddie became Chair of Prosthetic Dentistry at Meharry. He left Meharry to become a dentist in Lexington, KY. Dr. Dinwiddie had a large practice located in the medical building at 118 North Broadway. He was one of the first African American dentist in Kentucky. Dr. Dinwiddie was also a carpenter and master mechanic. In 1898 he married Addie B. Dinwiddie (b.1871 in Kentucky), his first wife, and in 1905 married Georgia McLaughin Dinwiddie (born 1875 in Danville, KY). For more see Evidences of Progress Among Colored People, by G. F. Richings at the Documenting the American South website; and Biographical Sketches of Prominent Negro Men and Women of Kentucky, by W. D. Johnson.
Subjects: Medical Field, Health Care, Migration South, Carpenters, Mechanics and Mechanical Engineering, Dentists
Geographic Region: Lincoln County, Kentucky / Danville, Boyle County, Kentucky / Knoxville and Nashville, Tennessee / Lexington, Fayette County, Kentucky

Figgs, Ukari O.
Birth Year : 1977
Ukari Figgs was born in Georgetown, KY. In high school, she was an outstanding student and athlete, leading the Scott County girls' basketball team to a state title in 1995, the year she was named Miss Basketball of Kentucky. She played college ball at Purdue University, helping them win the 1999 women's NCAA title; Figgs was named the Most Outstanding Player of the Final Four. She graduated in 1999 with a degree in mechanical engineering and was drafted into the WNBA; Ukari Figgs was the first African American woman from the Bluegrass region to play in the WNBA. She was a member of the 2001 Los Angeles Sparks WNBA title team. In 2004, Figgs retired from the WNBA, where she had averaged 6.5 points, 3.1 assists, 2.3 rebounds, and had played in 151 games on three different teams. She was an engineer at Toyota Manufacturing in Georgetown, KY, and an assistant coach with the male varsity team at Scott County High School from 2004-2009. Figgs was named the assistant coach to the Purdue women's basketball team in 2009. Two years later, June 2011, Ukari Figgs was named the University of Kentucky's assistant athletic director for women's basketball. For more see Ukari Figgs, WNBA player information and Ukari Figgs Announces Retirement. See also M. Carmin, "Coaching lures Figgs back to Purdue," Journal and Courrier, 04/14/2009, Sports section, p.1,3C; and J. Tipton, "Figgs named women's basketball AD - 1995 Miss Basketball coached at Purdue," Lexington Herald-Leader, 06/11/2011, p.D6.

See photo images and additional information about Ukari Figgs at the Los Angeles Sparks website and WNBA.com.
Subjects: Basketball, Mechanics and Mechanical Engineering
Geographic Region: Georgetown, Scott County, Kentucky / Los Angeles, California / West Lafayette, Indiana / Lexington, Fayette County, Kentucky

The James Harvey Family (Woodford County, KY)
The family of James Harvey was regarded as skilled, artistic, musical, and mechanical. Harvey, considered a naturally gifted mechanic, was an engineer in a distillery near Frankfort, KY. He was the father of Lewis, Will, and two other boys; his wife was described as Mexican. The March 1902 issue of the Woodford Sun newspaper contained a story relating how 18 year old Lewis built a functioning miniature stationary steam engine; Lewis had not been trained as an engineer and was thought to be uneducated. He was also a wood carver and had made a walking stick designed with people and animals in bold relief. Will, who was 15 years old, sketched portraits and landscapes in pencil and crayon. The two other brothers were gifted musicians and played a number of instruments. For more see "IV. Inventive Genius, Mechanical Skill, etc." on pp. 470-471 in The Story of a Rising Race, by Rev. J. J. Pipkin [available full-text at Google Book Search]; and "Untutored Negro boy is a genius," Woodford Sun, 03/06/1902, p. 1.
Subjects: Artists, Fine Arts, Musicians, Opera, Singers, Song Writers, Mechanics and Mechanical Engineering
Geographic Region: Woodford County, Kentucky

Kentucky Speedway Incident
Start Year : 1928
In 1928, African American auto mechanic and racecar driver Charlie Wiggins was driving the pre-race qualifying lap at the Kentucky Speedway in Louisville, KY, when white fans protested: the Speedway was "whites-only." A mob broke through the protective fence around the track. Police officers held back the mob, and race officials ordered the Kentucky militia to arrest Wiggins for his own safety. The police quickly took Wiggins away in a paddy wagon. Wiggins was placed in a jail cell until nightfall, when he could slip out of town. A police report was filed stating that Wiggins was arrested for speeding. Wiggins would go on to win more races than any other African American racecar driver. For more see D. Hunt, "Brothers in pit, not on oval: a tale of Black drivers," The Philadelphia Tribune, 08/15/2003, vol. 119, issue 78, p. 2C; and For Gold and Glory: Charlie Wiggins and the African-American Racing Car Circuit, by T. Gould.
Subjects: Automobile Races, Race-car Drivers, Mechanics and Mechanical Engineering
Geographic Region: Louisville, Jefferson County, Kentucky

McCoy, Elijah J.
Birth Year : 1843
Death Year : 1929
Though it has been written otherwise, Elijah McCoy was not from Kentucky. He was born in Ontario, Canada. McCoy was the son of Mildred and George McCoy, escaped slaves from Louisville, KY. Elijah was a mechanical engineer known as the "Father of Lubrication." In 1872 he first patented an invention for self-oiling machines; automatic lubrication became known as "the real McCoy." He also invented an ironing table and lawn sprinkler. For more see World of Invention. History's most significant inventions and the people behind them, 2nd ed.

See photo and additional information about Elijah J. McCoy at the African American Registry website.
Subjects: Inventors, Mechanics and Mechanical Engineering
Geographic Region: Ontario, Canada / Louisville, Kentucky

Parker, John P.
Birth Year : 1827
Death Year : 1900
Parker was born a slave in Virginia, son of a white father and a slave mother. He was sold south at 8 years of age but was able to purchase his freedom in 1845. Parker settled near Ripley, OH, where he became an Underground Railroad conductor. He is credited with assisting more than 1,000 escaped slaves across the Ohio River from Kentucky to Ohio. Parker was also a businessman and an inventor: he was one of the few African Americans to receive patents before the year 1900. For more see His Promised Land: the Autobiography of John Parker, ed. by S. S. Sprague; and Blacks in Science and Medicine, by V. O. Sammons.
Subjects: Freedom, Inventors, Mechanics and Mechanical Engineering, Underground Railroad: Conductors, Escapes, Organizations, Research
Geographic Region: Virginia / Ripley, Ohio / Kentucky

Parker, Johne M.
Johne M. Parker was born in Montgomery, AL. An associate professor in the Department of Mechanical Engineering, she has been with the University of Kentucky since 1997. She received her B.S., M.S., and Ph.D. in mechanical engineering from the Georgia Institute of Technology, where she wrote her dissertation, An analytical and experimental investigation of physically-accurate synthetic images for machine vision design. She co-authored Physically accurate synthetic images for computer vision system design. In 2005, Parker became the first person from Kentucky selected as an American Society of Mechanical Engineers (ASME) Congressional Fellow, the oldest engineering society fellows program in the nation. The program enables fellow recipients to devote a year working with the federal government, providing engineering and technical advice to policy makers in Congress, federal agencies, and the White House. Parker spent the 2005-2006 academic year in D.C. For more see K. Johnson, "Engineering Professor to Advise Congress," University of Kentucky News, 06/24/05. For more on the ASME Congressional Fellows Program, see the Federal Government Fellowships Programs.
Subjects: Authors, Engineers, Migration North, Mechanics and Mechanical Engineering
Geographic Region: Montgomery, Alabama / Lexington, Fayette County, Kentucky

Robinson, William Henry
Birth Year : 1900
Death Year : 1962
Born in Louisville, KY, William H. Robinson was head of the Physics and Math Department at Tillotson College [now Houston-Tillotson University] and Bricks Junior College, in North Carolina, and assistant director of the Mechanical Arts Department at Prairie View College [now Prairie View A&M University] before becoming head of the Physics and Math Department at North Carolina College [now North Carolina Central University], beginning in 1938. Robinson received his Ph.D. in 1937. He was author of several articles, including "The Negro and the Field of Physics," Beta Kappa Chi Bulletin (1945). William H. Robinson died in Durham, NC, on March 27, 1962, he was the son of Amanda Obannon Robinson and Lee Robinson [source: North Carolina Death Certificate]. He was the husband of Fannie Robinson. William H. Robinson's funeral arrangements were handled by A. D. Porter and Sons in Louisville, KY, and he was buried in Eastern Cemetery. For more see Who's Who in Colored America, 1950.
Subjects: Education and Educators, Migration West, Physicists, Migration East, Mechanics and Mechanical Engineering
Geographic Region: Louisville, Jefferson County, Kentucky / North Carolina / Texas

Rules and regulations of the annual fair of the Colored A. & M. Association Incorporated: to be held on the grounds of the white fair association, Lexington, Ky., September 8, 9, 10, 11
Colored Agricultural and Mechanical Association. Lexington, Ky.: Standard Print, 1897. Title available at Transylvania University Library's Special Collections (call no. S552 .C65 1897z) in Lexington, KY.
Subjects: Colored Fairs & Black Expos, Mechanics and Mechanical Engineering
Geographic Region: Lexington, Fayette County, Kentucky

Woodson (former slave)
The first slave case to be tried in Pittsburgh, PA, under the Fugitive Slave Law was that of an escaped slave named Woodson. The trial took place on March 13, 1851. Woodson, previously owned by a Mrs. Byers in Kentucky, had been living as a free man for two years in Beaver, PA, where he was a mechanic and a preacher. In the escaped slave case, the courts decided in favor of Mrs. Byers, and Woodson was returned to Kentucky. Citizens of Pittsburgh and Beaver raised subscriptions (money) and purchased Woodson, who returned to Pennsylvania. On August 1, 1851, Woodson was guest speaker at the West Indies Emancipation Day Celebration in Oakland, PA; it was the 17th anniversary in recognition of the end of slavery in the British Empire, including the British West Indies. For more see I. E. Williams, "The Operation of the Fugitive Slave Law in Western Pennsylvania, from 1850-1860," The Western Pennsylvania Historical Magazine, vol. 4, issue 3 (July 1921), pp. 150-160 [available full-text at Google Book Search].
Subjects: Freedom, Migration North, Religion & Church Work, Emancipation Day / Juneteenth Celebrations, Mechanics and Mechanical Engineering, Court Cases
Geographic Region: Kentucky / Beaver, Pittsburgh, and Oakland, Pennsylvania

 

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