From NKAA, Notable Kentucky African Americans Database (main entry)

Jones, Frederick McKinley

(born: May 7, 1893  -  died: Feb. 21, 1961

Frederick M. Jones was born in Cincinnati, OH and was later moved to Covington, KY. Some sources state that he was actually born in Covington in 1893. He was the son of John Jones, who was white, and an African American mother.

Frederick Jones was raised by his father until age seven, when he was placed with the local Catholic Church; his mother had left the family when Jones was a baby. At the age of 11, Jones ran away from his caretakers at the Catholic church and found a job in a garage in Cincinnati. He became a full-time employee at age 14.

Jones was attracted to mechanics and is credited with building the first practical truck refrigeration system in 1949. He also built cars from spare parts and raced them. He was a soldier in World War I; while in the service he studied electricity. In 1939 he patented a ticket dispensing machine for movie houses, his first patent (#2,163,754).

Frederick M. Jones died in Minneapolis, MN. He was posthumously awarded the National Medal of Technology in 1991 by President George H. W. Bush; Jones was the 1st African Ameican to receive the award. 

For more see Distinguished African American Scientists of the 20th Century, by J. H. Kessler; and "Frederick McKinley Jones" in Encyclopedia of World Biography, vol. 20, 2nd. ed., 2004.

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NKAA Source: Distinguished African American scientists of the 20th Century
NKAA Source: Encyclopedia of world biography

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“Jones, Frederick McKinley,” Notable Kentucky African Americans Database, accessed May 30, 2024,

Last modified: 2022-06-17 18:53:45