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Sherri J. Norris

chemical engineer and environmental engineering entrepreneur, was born in Memphis, Tennessee, the second of four daughters of Ernest Buford Abron and Bernice Wise Abron, both educators. Abron was educated in Memphis public schools and was a member of the National Honor Society. Abron divorced and had three sons, Frederick, Ernest, and David; she is occasionally credited as Lilia Ann Abron-Robinson.

Abron stayed close to home when she attended LeMoyne College, a historically black college in Memphis, Tennessee. She considered medical school, but she was persuaded by her advisor, Dr. Beuler, to pursue a career in engineering instead. Her decision was a risky one. She did not know of any African Americans with engineering degrees who were actually working as engineers; instead, she once said in an interview, they were often working in post offices. In 1966 Abron received her BS in Chemistry from ...


Robert Jr. Johnson

chemical engineer and professor, was one of two children born in Washington, D.C., to William Langston Hawkins and Maude Johnson Hawkins. Walter Hawkins's father was from Wisconsin and came to Washington with a law degree but spent most of his career as a civil servant in the U.S. Census Bureau. His mother taught general science in the city's public school system. Walter's inclination toward the sciences began with the simple experiments his mother conducted to entertain the children. “Linc,” as he preferred to be called, spent a good amount of his playtime building gadgets. From simple radio sets to more complex contraptions, he was fascinated with how things worked.

He attended Dunbar High School where many of the faculty members were highly skilled black PhDs Hawkins credited this intellectually challenging environment with providing the inspiration for his choice of a career in chemistry and engineering One highly influential ...


Jeannette Elizabeth Brown

chemical engineer, activist, and the first African American woman to receive a PhD in Chemical Engineering, was born in Gadsden, Alabama, the fourth of five children of James and Elizabeth Patrick. Her parents had little formal education beyond the sixth grade; her father worked as a janitor and her mother was a maid. They wanted their children to be educated and successful. They talked repeatedly about using the mind as a way out of poverty. As a child, Jennie loved to read and enjoyed encyclopedias because they stretched her imagination and opened her world. During her early childhood years, she attended the segregated elementary and junior high schools in her home town. When she was of high school age in 1964, she was able to attend an integrated high school because the full effect of the Brown v. Board of Education decision had been implemented ...