Frederick Douglass Patterson, Black Educator Hall of Fame

E’ry day this month, the Center for Black Educator Development, in partnership with, will highlight a Black Educator Hall of Famer.

But, don’t forget, e’ry month is Black History Month. February is just the Blackest.

Today, our featured Black Educator is Frederick Douglass Patterson.

Frederick Douglass Patterson, named after the famed abolitionist and orator Frederick Douglass, was born on October 10, 1901, in Washington D.C. Both parents died of tuberculosis when Patterson was age two. He lived with his sister—Wilhemina, a schoolteacher in Texas—and she raised him. She enrolled him in the elementary school of Samuel Huston College (now Huston-Tillotson College) in Austin, TX, for which she paid $8 a month out of her $20 salary. 

It was a worthwhile investment.

Patterson attended Prairie View Normal and Industrial Institute in Texas and earned a teaching certificate in 1915. He went on to study at Iowa State College, where he received a doctorate in veterinary medicine in 1923, a master of science degree in 1927, and in 1932, he was awarded a second doctorate from Cornell University.

While in school, Patterson served as the Director of Agriculture at Virginia State College, from 1923 to 1928, and taught veterinary science there. In 1928, Patterson joined the Tuskegee Normal and Industrial Institute and was chosen as the head of the veterinary division. In 1935 Dr. Patterson was appointed President of the Tuskegee Institute at the age of 34; where he’d serve until 1953. That same year, Dr. Patterson married Catherine E. Moton, the daughter of Robert Russa Moton, the second president of Tuskegee Institute.

During his tenure at Tuskegee, Patterson transformed the baccalaureate institution into a prestigious university with cutting-edge graduate programs, all of which are flourishing today; including dietetics (or nutrition), engineering, and veterinarian science. Patterson’s greatest achievement happened outside the halls of Tuskegee.

First, in the 1930s, Patterson went against the grain and trained Black people to fly military planes. This effort yielded the legendary Tuskegee Airmen of World War II. Of the nearly 1,000 African Americans trained, half participated in World War II as combat pilots, and despite segregation’s obstacles, the Tuskegee Airmen boasted a spotless record—not one bomber was lost to enemy planes in 1,500 missions. 

The valor and excellence of the Tuskegee Airmen helped facilitate the desegregation of the U.S. armed forces.

Next, in 1943, Patterson founded the United Negro College Fund (UNCF), a national effort to collectively raise funds for thirty-seven small, private, historically Black colleges and universities across the South.  The UNCF became the largest independent source of income for African American institutions across America and provided for student scholarships, staff salaries, library resources, laboratories, and new teaching programs.

The UNCF remains an important supporter and funder of Black education at its thirty-seven-member institutions. Patterson died, one year after receiving the Presidential Medal of Freedom, on April 26, 1988.

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

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



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