Frederick Douglass Patterson, Black Educator Hall Of Fame Member

Every day this month, the Center for Black Educator Development, in partnership with and the Education Post, will highlight a Black Educator Hall of Famer. But, don’t forget, e’ry month is Black History MonthFebruary is just the Blackest.

Today, our featured Black Educator Hall of Fame Member is Frederick Douglass Patterson.

Frederick D. Patterson, named after abolitionist Frederick Douglass, was born on September 17, 1871 in Greenfield, OH. Patterson’s education, and also that of his brother, was important to Patterson’s parents. Patterson graduated from Greenfield High School in 1888 and shortly thereafter attended Ohio State University where he played football and may have been the first Black player at the school on the varsity team.

Patterson withdrew from Ohio State before his senior year. He entered the teaching profession for the next few years, teaching history. Unfortunately, Patterson’s younger brother Samuel fell ill in 1897, prompting Patterson to leave a teaching position he had assumed in Louisville, Kentucky, and move back to his hometown.

Patterson’s father, Charles, Richard Patterson, left for Greenfield shortly before the Civil War. With a partner, the elder Patterson started a carriage manufacturing business, after gaining his footing in Greenfield as a Blacksmith. Patterson then bought out his partner and named his business for he and his sons.

After Frederick Patterson’s return, he and his father continued to run the business together; more so after the death of Samuel in 1899. Frederick Patterson took control of his father’s carriage business after his father’s death in 1910.

Having seen the rapid changes that were taking place in the transportation industry via mechanization of product and production, Frederick was aware that the emergence of the affordable, mass-market automobile was poised to render their buggies obsolete. In late September 1915, still operating under the name C.R. Patterson & Sons, the company debuted its Patterson-Greenfield automobile; with a four-cylinder, a full-floating rear axle, cantilever springs, demountable rims, an electric starter (only four years after Cadillac had pioneered that feature), electric lighting, and a split windshield for ventilation.

The Patterson-Greenfield sold for $850 and was reputed to be a higher quality automobile than Henry Ford’s Model T, also known as a “Tin Lizzy.” The company slogan, “If it’s a Patterson, it’s a good one” described the company’s carriages as well as the motor vehicles; producing 150 vehicles from 1915 to 1920.

Frederick Douglas Patterson, the first African American to build automobiles, died January 18, 1932 at the age of 60 and the company closed its doors in 1939 after 74 years of manufacturing carriages, automobiles, and buses and trucks.

Frederick Patterson; a member of the Black Educator Hall of Fame.

For more information on Frederick Patterson, visit the following site.


  1. The entire Patterson story is amazing. All three generations of the Patterson family to run the company had their own successes and a story to tell. I’ve spent 15 years researching the Patterson family and company, while working with first-line Patterson descendants. To learn more about the Patterson story, check out the award-winning book, The C. R. Patterson and Sons Company: Black Pioneers in the Vehicle Building Industry, 1865-1939. It is available on Amazon or through the book’s website at


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