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Black, John L., Sr.
Birth Year : 1931
Death Year : 2004
John L. Black, Sr., born in Burgin, KY, was the son of Robert and Bertha Black; Bertha died in 1934 after becoming ill with sickle cell anemia and tuberculosis. John Black was a retired stationary engineer for the Cincinnati Public Schools and a member of the International Union of Operating Engineers (IUOE), Local #20. In 1991, he became the first African American president of an IUOE Local #20. For more see "John Lincoln Black" in vol. 1 of African American National Biography, edited by H. L. Gates, Jr. and E. B. Higginbotham; and The Cincinnati Post, obituaries, 06/24/2004, News section, p. A14.

Access Interview Listen to Samuel Black remembering his father in A Father, a Son, and a Ten-cent Mistake, 09/29/2006, StoryCorps: Recording America at
Subjects: Engineers, Migration North, Union Organizations, Tuberculosis: Care and Deaths
Geographic Region: Burgin, Mercer County, Kentucky / Cincinnati, Ohio

Clark, Yvonne Young
Birth Year : 1929
Yvonne Young Clark is a pioneer for women engineers. She was the first woman to earn an undergraduate degree in mechanical engineering at Howard University in 1951, and was the first woman to complete the masters degree in engineering management at Vanderbilt University. Clark was the first woman professor in the College of Engineering and Technology at Tennessee State University and has taught at the school for more than 50 years. Prior to her move to Nashville, there had not been a professional African American woman engineer in the city. She was the first female engineer at the Ford Motor Company glass plant in Nashville, where she did a one year internship after her graduation from Vanderbilt University. Her work career began with Frankford Arsenal-Gage Laboratories in Philadelphia, and with RCA in New Jersey. Clark has received a number of awards, including the Distinguished Engineering Educator Award from the Society of Women Engineers in 1997. In 2008, an event was held by Tennessee State University to honor Clark for her years of dedication and service to the school. Yvonne Young Clark was born in Houston, TX, and raised in Louisville, KY. She is the daughter of librarian Hortense Houston Young and Dr. Coleman M. Young Jr. She is the wife of William F. Clark, Jr. who was a biochemistry professor at Meharry Medical College. For more see "She is teaching Mechanical Engineering," Plaindealer (Topeka), 01/27/1956, p.1; "Yvonne Young Clark of Nashville, Tennessee...," Jet, 09/30/1971, p.48 [available online at Google Book Search]; and "Yvonne Young Clark" in Sisters in Science by D. Jordan.
Subjects: Engineers
Geographic Region: Houston, Texas / Louisville, Jefferson County, Kentucky / Nashville, Tennessee

Coleman, Ruth A.
Birth Year : 1950
Ruth Coleman became the first African American woman graduate of the College of Engineering at the University of Kentucky in 1977. She was the only African American in her classes and one of just two women in a couple of her classes. In addition to being a civil engineer graduate, Coleman also has an associate degree in engineering technology from Lexington Technical Institute [now Bluegrass Community and Technical College] and was a math major at Transylvania University for two years. She graduated from Bryan Station High School in 1968. Coleman was employed at the Kentucky Department of Transportation's Division of Bridges [now Kentucky Transportation Cabinet]. She was born in Lexington, KY, the daughter of Cleo J. and Samuel O. Coleman, Sr. This entry was submitted by Rhetta Coleman Young, sister to Ruth Coleman. For more see J. Swartz, "Woman makes inroads in Engineering School," Lexington Herald, 05/23/1977, Lifestyle section, p. A-9.
Subjects: Engineers
Geographic Region: Lexington, Fayette County, Kentucky

Fields, Holloway, Jr.
Birth Year : 1927
Death Year : 2006
Holloway Fields, Jr. was born in Lexington, KY. In 1951, he became the first African American student to graduate from the University of Kentucky (UK) and from the UK College of Engineering with an electrical engineering degree. Fields was valedictorian of his 1945 graduating class at old Dunbar High School; he also was president of the student council and captain of the football team. He first enrolled at the Illinois Institute of Technology and then transferred to the University of Kentucky following the U.S. District Court decision forcing the University of Kentucky to become desegregated. Fields went on to become an engineer with the General Electric Company, retiring in 1991. Fields was also a World War II veteran and a resident of Syracuse, NY, where he died. Holloway Fields was the son of Holloway Sr. and Margaret Fields. According to the 1930 U.S. Federal Census, the family lived on Montmullin Street at the home of Rosie Bryant, who was Holloway Fields' maternal grandmother. For more see "Holloway Fields, Jr., UK's first Black graduate, passes away," UK News, 02/28/2006 [available online]; and "First black to earn bachelor's degree from UK dies," Lexington Herald-Leader, 03/01/2006.

See photo image and additional information at the UK College of Engineering website.


  Access InterviewRead about the Holloway Fields, Jr. oral history interview available at the University of Kentucky Louie B. Nunn Center for Oral History, item record in the SPOKE Database.       
Subjects: Engineers, Migration North, Military & Veterans
Geographic Region: Lexington, Fayette County, Kentucky / Syracuse, New York

Henderson, Louis B.
Birth Year : 1904
Born in Maysville, KY, Henderson grew up in Springfield, Ohio. He was a chemical engineering graduate from Case Institute of Technology [now Case Western Reserve University]. He had been employed in West Virginia at the Weirton Steel Company in the metallurgical department and later moved to Stubenville, Ohio. Henderson was a life-long Mason and in 1952 was awarded 33rd Degree by the United Supreme Council. In 1955 he was Grand Master. For more see Chapter 16 of The History of Prince Hall Grand Lodge of Free and Accpeted Masons of the State of Ohio, 1849-1960 by C. H. Wesley.
Subjects: Engineers, Migration North, Migration East, Fraternal Organizations
Geographic Region: Maysville, Mason County, Kentucky / Weirton, West Virginia / Stubenville, Ohio

Higgins, Katheryn D.
Birth Year : 1958
Katheryn D. Higgins was the first African American and female engineer at the Louisville (KY) Water Company in 1983. The company was chartered by the Kentucky Legislature in 1854, and provides safe drinking water to Louisville Metro and parts of four surrounding counties. Higgins was born in Jefferson County, KY, and is the daughter of Elnora Tolliver Higgins and Frederick Higgins. She is a 1975 graduate of Sacred Heart Academy in Louisville, KY, and later served on the steering committee of the King Scholars Program that was established by Nick King and Carol Zurkuhlen King in 1999. The program provides financial aid to young women so that they may attend Sacred Heart. Higgins is a 1981 chemical engineer graduate of the University of Louisville (U of L), and later completed her finance degree at U of L. When she retired from the Louisville Water Company, she started her second career as a financial advisor with Morgan Stanley. For more see Katheryn D. Higgins in "Alumnae Profile" on page 6 of the HeartBeat: a publication for alumnae, parents and friends of Sacred Heart Academy, Spring 2004. This entry was submitted by Librarian Laura Hall, graduate of Sacred Heart and staff member of the UK Libraries.
Subjects: Bankers, Banks, Finance, Financial Advisors, Engineers
Geographic Region: Louisville, Jefferson County, Kentucky

Lyons, Joseph B., Jr.
Birth Year : 1929
Death Year : 2001
Joseph B. Lyons, Jr. was born in Lexington, KY. He was a graduate of Old Dunbar High School and attended Kentucky State University. He later completed his electrical engineering degree at the University of Kentucky. Lyons served with the U.S. Air Force and had a 32 year career as a civilian employee in the Department of the Navy. He was an expert in radar systems and was the first African American to be named manager of the microwave technology division of the Sensors and Avionics Technology Directorate. Lyons also held six patents. In 2007, Joseph B. Lyons, Jr. was posthumously inducted into the University of Kentucky College of Engineering Hall of Distinction. He was the brother of Donald W. Lyons, Sr. For more see D. Adkins, "UK Engineering Hall of Distinction honors new inductees," UK News, 04/30/2007, p. 7.

Subjects: Engineers, Inventors, Military & Veterans
Geographic Region: Lexington, Fayette County, Kentucky

Meeks, Willis Gene
Birth Year : 1938
Willis G. Meeks was born in Harlan, KY, the son of Maceo and Thelma Meeks. He was a flight project manager, and head of NASA's Ulysses Solar Exploration Project beginning in 1990. Ulysses was a $750 million joint effort of NASA and the European Space Agency (ESA), it was a fact finding mission to assess Earth's total solar environment, with data being transmitted from Ulysses to Earth. The mission was to be a five year journey, but the mission continued for another 15 years. In 2009, the Ulysses Mission Team received the NASA Group Achievement Award; Ulysses was the longest running ESA-operated spacecraft [see Ulysses website]. Meeks wrote several technical reports about the Ulysses Project and the records for the reports are available at the NASA Technical Reports Server (NTRS). After 30 years of service, Meeks retired from the Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) on January 29, 1996. He was the first flight project manager at JPL/NASA. Meeks is a veteran of the U.S. Air Force, and while enlisted earned his A. A. degree in electronics at Allan Hancock College. While employed at JPL and raising four children, Meeks attended college at night and earned his B.S. degree in 1975, and his MBA degrees in 1977, both from California State University. Among his many awards, in 1984 he received the Equal Employment Opportunity Medal for exceptional contributions to the JPL Affirmative Action Program. He also received the Outstanding Leadership Medal in 1992. Willis G. Meeks is the husband of Magalene LeCita Powell, who was systems engineer at JPL/NASA when the couple married in 1991. For more see R. Dunger, "William M. Meeks - heading NASA's Ulysses Solar Exploration Project," Los Angeles Sentinel, 10/11/1990, p.A4; "Flight Project Manager," Ebony, January 1991, p.7; "Loving Embrace," Jet, 02/10/1992, p.30; Who's Who Among Black Americans 1994/95; and Who's Who Among African Americans beginning in 1996-97 edition.

See photo image in "Loving Embrace," Jet, 02/10/1992, p.30.
Subjects: Engineers, Migration West, Military & Veterans
Geographic Region: Harlan, Harlan County, Kentucky / Los Angeles, California

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

Payne, George W.
Birth Year : 1888
Born in Union, KY, George W. Payne was an engineer with the Mt. Vernon (Indiana) Water, Light, and Power Co. beginning in 1906. He was regarded as one of the best engineers and engine repairman in southern Indiana. He was the son of Jefferson and Alice Benson Payne. He was a member of Butler's Cornet Band, and was a member of the Technical and Electrical Engineers Association of America. George W. Payne was the husband of Ethel Payne and he couple had five children when they were listed in the 1930 U.S. Federal Census living on East Sycamore Street in Mt. Vernon, IN. For more see Who's Who of Colored America, 1915.
Subjects: Engineers, Migration North, Musicians, Opera, Singers, Song Writers
Geographic Region: Union, Boone County, Kentucky / Mount Vernon, Indiana

Porter, Troy, Sr.
Birth Year : 1855
Porter was born in Fayette County, KY, the son of Winnie Porter. The family of four was living in Paris, IL, in 1865 and are listed in the 1870 U.S. Federal Census. Porter became an engineer in the areas of plumbing and gas and steam fitting. He established his own business and was also appointed superintendent of the city water works in 1883. In 1885 he was the first African American to be elected town clerk of Paris. In 1880, Porter was the husband of Belle J. Porter, born 1855 in IN, and in 1900, he was the husband of Cora B. Porter, born 1873 in IN. For more see Afro-American Encyclopaedia: or, the thoughts..., by J. T. Haley [available full-text at UNC Documenting the American South website].
Subjects: Engineers, Migration North
Geographic Region: Fayette County, Kentucky / Paris, Illinois

Powell, William Jennifer, Sr.
Birth Year : 1899
Death Year : 1942
William J. Powell, Sr. was born William Jennifer in Henderson, KY; he had a sister named Edna Jennifer. Their father died, and their mother moved to Chicago and married Mr. Powell, who adopted the children. After high school, William Powell enrolled at the University of Illinois at Champaign [now University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign] but left in 1917 to join the U.S. Army. At the end of World War I, he returned to college and earned his electrical engineering degree. In 1928 he left Chicago to enroll in the Warren School of Aeronautics in Los Angeles. Powell learned to fly, and his lifetime goal was to encourage African Americans to become pilots. He saw the field as a way for African Americans to get ahead economically by becoming part of the air age and to help break down the racial barriers in public transportation. Powell was the successful owner of Craftsmen of Black Wings, Inc., an aviation company that offered flying lessons. He also made the documentary film, Unemployment, the Negro, and Aviation (1935); published the trade journal Craftsmen Aero-News (1937-1938); and organized all-black air shows with pilots such as Betsy Coleman and Hubert Fauntleroy Julian. Powell wrote an autobiography, Black Wings (1934). He was the husband of Lucylle Powell and the father of William Jr. and Bernadyne Powell. William Powell, Sr. was a member of the Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity. For more see Black Aviator: the story of William J. Powell, a new edition of William J. Powell's 1934 Black Wings; and see William Jennifer Powell in Encyclopedia of African American Business History, by J. E. K. Walker.

See photo image and additional information about William J. Powell, Sr. at the Find A Grave website.
Subjects: Authors, Aviators, Businesses, Engineers, Journalists, Newspapers, Magazines, Book Publishers, Music Publishers, Migration North, Migration West, Military & Veterans, Movies and Films
Geographic Region: Henderson, Henderson County, Kentucky / Chicago, Illinois / Los Angeles, California

Young, Herman A.
Birth Year : 1929
Young was born in Memphis, TN. He was a professor of natural sciences at the University of Louisville. Prior to that, Young had been head of the science department at Lincoln Institute. He had also been the first African American owner and president of an electronic manufacturing plant in Kentucky, Tubetek, Inc. He had been a chemical engineer with Dumont Labs and Thomas Electronics, Inc. Young and his wife, Barbara, co-authored Scientists in the Black Perspective. For more see Who's Who Among Black Americans, 1st-10th ed.
Subjects: Authors, Businesses, Education and Educators, Engineers
Geographic Region: Memphis, Tennessee / Louisville, Jefferson County, Kentucky


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