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Frederick D. Patterson
Frederick D. Patterson Frederick D. Patterson


Frederick Douglass Patterson was born October 10, 1901, in the Anacostia section of Washington, DC, to Mamie and William Patterson The couple had moved to the nation's capital two or three years previously with their other five children from Texas Mr Patterson thought he would be able to find better work in Washington due to the lesser amount of racial problems there than in Texas He named his youngest son after educator and abolitionist Frederick Douglass, whose onetime home was a couple of blocks away from where they lived Frederick's mother was a music teacher and his father was a school principal They had both received their college degrees from Prairie View College in Texas Once they arrived in Washington, his father returned to school at Howard University to study law Mr Patterson passed the DC.

bar shortly after Frederick was born Despite all the hard work his parents did to improve the life of the family, nothing could stop them both from dying of tuberculosis before Frederick was two years old The same illness would also claim one of Frederick"s brothers a few years later Frederick initially went to live with a friend of the family, "Aunt" Julia Dorsey His siblings all went to live with different family friends except his oldest sister, Wilhelmina Bessie, who was old enough to support herself and attend the Washington Conservatory of Music In his autobiography Patterson says, "I called Aunt Julia my Civil War aunt, because she was born during slavery" They continued living in the house of his parents when Frederick was still young, and he also started school there When Frederick was about seven-years-old his sister Bessie assumed his guardianship She had finished school and was looking for work She knew some of the family relatives and decided to go to live in Texas where she thought she would have the most assistance in finding work.

Over the next few years Frederick and Bessie were often living in different cities She was often unable to find teaching work where Frederick could live with her So Frederick lived with different members of the family while attending school From the fourth through the eighth grades Frederick attended Sam Houston College Although called a college, Sam Houston also had primary and high school divisions too "I didn't object to school, but I didn't do much with I, Patterson said in Chronicles of Faith "At the time I didn't take my studies seriously I finished the eighth grade many whippings later" His classmates that year voted Frederick least likely to succeed From the eighth grade through the end of High School Patterson attended another boarding school at a college.

This one was at Prairie View College, where his parents had attended Bessie had secured a job teaching and directing the choir at the school, so the two of them lived together there in Prairie View, Texas During the summers, he took odd jobs to earn money One of these was as a driver for a wealthy family Although Frederick had never driven before applying for the position, he got the job and taught himself to drive He also taught himself how to play tennis, which became a lifelong hobby Patterson says he became interested in school when he had to do his work study in the Agriculture Department of the school He worked for two veterinarians his last couple years of high school It motivated him so much, spending time with the animals, that he decided he would go to college to become a veterinarian Because the veterinarians he worked with at Prairie View had attended Iowa State University in Ames, Iowa, Patterson decided that he too would go to Iowa for schooling.

Since being an out-of- state student is more expensive than being a commuter, Patterson moved to Ames and lived there awhile before he registered for school Frederick Patterson worked many different jobs while putting himself through veterinary school He worked at a hotel, washing and ironing clothes, cooking, being a janitor, and running a rug cleaning business Anything to make ends meet He lived with six other people on the second floor of a business He was one of very few black students at Iowa State at that time, and for a while, the only black student in the veterinary program Patterson said in Chronicles of Faith that the only time he had problems with discrimination was when he had to go to military camp one summer in college Part of his schooling was paid for by the Student Army Corps He spent the summer training with the Army and was a reserve when he finished school in exchange for the Army paying for some school At this camp students were segregated by race for dinner.

He and one other black student ate at a separate table from all the other white students Dr Patterson says that after he returned to Iowa State the other students that had also been at the military camp treated him differently than they had before they went, "they treated me as a pariah," said Patterson "I learned a lesson with regard to race that I never forgot: how people feel about you reflects the way you permit yourself to be treated If you permit yourself to be treated differently, you are condemned to an unequal relationship" Frederick graduated with a veterinary medicine degree in 1923 He moved to Columbus, Ohio to live with his brother John He only stayed a short time in Ohio, but did manage to pass the examination for licensure of veterinarians in that state It was shortly after that Patterson was offered a job as professor of veterinary medicine and chemistry at Virginia State University in Petersburg, Virginia Patterson worked for three years teaching at Virginia State and decided he would return to Iowa State for his master's degree Once he completed his master's, he was promoted to Director of the Agriculture program at Virginia State.

After being on the job for only a year, Patterson accepted a job with Tuskegee Institute (now Tuskegee University) in Tuskegee, Alabama It was a more important place to research and teach Patterson explained in his book Patterson taught bacteriology and was head of the Veterinary Department at Tuskegee In 1932 he took a leave from his job to earn his doctoral degree from Cornell University in Ithaca, New York After being back a year at Tuskegee, Dr Patterson was made head of the Agriculture Department there He only remained on that job for a year before he was named President of Tuskegee That same year he married Catherine Moton, daughter of Robert Russa Moton, the former President of Tuskegee Many people at first were not happy with Patterson as President They thought he had gotten the job because he married Mr Moton's daughter.

Dr Patterson however managed to quell the talk when he took the school from the brink of bankruptcy and stabilized Tuskegee's money flow within a few years of becoming President Among changes at Tuskegee brought about by Frederick Patterson was the new division of domestic service, with a four year program in nutrition and personal services He also began a program which changed how sharecroppers and poor farmers lived Wood for houses had become expensive, so with the help of the School of Mechanical Industries, Patterson designed a house of concrete block The materials for this house could be found on most farms as the concrete was made with the local clay soil and a little concrete Soon such houses were appearing all over the south Patterson also started the George Washington Carver Foundation in 1940 This fund was used to encourage and fund scientific research by African Americans One of the more well-known feats of Patterson's administration was the start of the black Army Air Corps at Tuskegee.

The school initially used a former cow pasture as the runway Several pilots were recruited and instruction began This program led to the group of pilots known as the Tuskegee Airmen, well-known for their bravery in World War II Although Dr Patterson drew some flack for the program because of the discriminatory policies of the military, the program was a commercial success with extensive training for black pilots in military and commercial fields According to The New York Times, "Dr Patterson soon learned that the school's continuing leadership role brought letters from other schools asking for advice on how to raise money In 1943 he wrote a column in The Pittsburgh Courier proposing the creation of a consortium of black colleges that would raise money for their mutual benefit" about one year later in 1944, 27 schools came together to form the United Negro College Fund The first year the UNCF raised over 750,000 dollars for its member colleges These days a yearly telethon hosted by entertainer Lou Rawls raises millions for the organization and is its most prominent fundraiser.

This act by Dr Patterson is viewed my many as his most important act during his life He served as President of the UNCF from 1964-66 In 1953 Frederick Patterson retired from Tuskegee He became president of the Phelps Stokes Fund Phelps Stokes was started in 1901 and funds the education of African students as well as African American and Native American students in the United States Dr Patterson was president of the fund from 1953-70 It was during this work that he organized the Cooperative College Development Program to assign federal money to pay for the improvement and maintenance of the black college's physical plant In 1970 Dr Patterson left Phelps Stokes to head up the Robert R Moton Institute This institute was established to boost the endowments of black colleges.

It has served as a stabilizing influence for several schools because of cutbacks in federal funding in the last several years In 1987 Patterson was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom by Ronald Reagan In 1988 he was awarded the NAACP Spingarn Medal for "his belief that human productivity and well-being in a free society are the end products of determination and self-preparation" On April 26, 1988, Frederick Douglass Patterson died in New Rochelle, New York Donald Stewart former president of the College Board of the National Association of Schools and Colleges called Dr Frederick Patterson "a visionary and pioneer in American higher education and in Black American higher education," in The New York Times "He broke new ground for minority students and was always looking ahead into the next decade for new ways to finance education" In memory of his many years of service and dedication to his job the UNCF in 1996 announced the founding of the Frederick D Patterson Research Institute It will be the first major research center devoted to black educational data and policy .

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