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Gilbert, Mercedes  

Sharon L. Barnes

actress and writer, was born in Jacksonville, Florida, the daughter of Daniel Marshall Gilbert, the owner of a furniture business, and Edna Earl Knott, the owner of a dressmaking business. In an unfinished autobiographical manuscript Gilbert wrote that because of her parents' jobs, she was cared for and educated by a nurse. She enrolled in the Boylan Home, a seminary for girls in Jacksonville, when she was in the fourth grade. After her family moved to Tampa, Florida, Gilbert attended a Catholic school and the Orange Park Normal and Industrial School. She went to Edward Waters College in Jacksonville and after graduation taught school in southern Florida before deciding that she wanted a different profession. She then entered the Brewster Hospital Nurses Training School and graduated three years later, staying on the staff for two more years as the assistant superintendent.

After moving to New York City ...


Johnson, James Alloyd  

Bob Greene

inventor, educator, author, race driver, musician, and community leader, was born in Portland, Cumberland County, Maine, the son of Frank M. Johnson and Eva M. Deering. His father died when he was three years old and his mother remarried James Verra, a widower. Johnson, called both Jim and, in his early years, Lloyd, was raised along with Mr. Verra's five children.

After graduating from Portland High School in 1928 Johnson enrolled at the Franklin Institute a technical school in Boston Massachusetts His interest in automobiles had begun early and he became a mechanic and a machinist His teaching ability was first noticed while he was serving in the U S Navy during World War II where Johnson was praised by Naval officials He instructed ordinance trainees and helped research a new technique for indexing all destroyer gun batteries and ...


Lu Valle, James Ellis  

Alva Moore Stevenson

chemist, Olympic medalist, and university professor, was born to Isabelle Lu Valle and James Arthur Garfield Lu Valle in San Antonio, Texas. His father was a newspaper editor in Washington, D.C., and an itinerant preacher; his mother was a secretary. Lu Valle's parents separated when he was still young, and James moved with his mother and sister to Los Angeles in 1923. His father traveled worldwide after the separation and was in Europe for a time; Lu Valle remained estranged from him. At a young age he became a voracious reader. A chemistry set given him as a child changed his original interest in the sciences from engineering to chemistry.

James was an excellent student at McKinley Junior High School His scholastic record there qualified him to attend the competitive Los Angeles Polytechnic High School where his academic interests in science and math were further cultivated ...


Patterson, Audrey  

Adam R. Hornbuckle

Audrey Mae Patterson was the only child of Lionel Patterson, a porter and chauffeur, and Josephine Nero Patterson, a cook.

After graduating from Danneel Elementary School, Patterson entered Gilbert Academy, a Methodist-affiliated school in New Orleans devoted to the education of African American children. Participating on the track and field team, she compiled an undefeated record in the 100-, 220-, and 440-yard dashes. In 1944Jesse Owens, who had won four gold medals at the 1936 Olympic Games, spoke to the students, encouraging them to pursue their dreams and remain optimistic about the future despite racial injustice. Patterson later said that she believed Owens spoke directly to her, motivating her to compete in the Olympics.

After graduating from Gilbert in 1945 Patterson enrolled at Wiley College in Marshall Texas An historically black college affiliated with the Methodist church and known for high academic standards Wiley had made significant ...


Pickett, Tidye  

Bernita D. Lucas

track and field athlete, Olympian, and educator, was born Tidye Anne Pickett in Chicago, Illinois, the younger of two children of Sarah Elizabeth Patton, homemaker and active member of the War Mothers, and Louis Alfred Pickett, who worked for the International Harvester Corporation. Tidye's parents doted on her and her elder brother Charles, raised them to love family, God, and country, and were diligent in protecting and guiding them through the sometimes harsh realities of American racism in the first half of the twentieth century.

Sarah Pickett was involved in local community affairs, and politics eventually led her to several leadership positions as chaplain, historian, and president of a local chapter of the American War Mothers, which was founded in 1917 by mothers whose children were in the armed services, and was incorporated by an Act of Congress of 24 February 1925 The ...


Poage, George Coleman  

Gregory Travis Bond

athlete, classical scholar, singer, postal worker, and teacher, was born in Hannibal, Missouri, to James Poage, a tanner, and Annie Coleman Poage, a domestic worker. Both parents were Missouri-born, and Annie claimed to have “freedom papers,” issued either before the outbreak of the Civil War or before the 13th Amendment in 1865. Poage’s siblings were Lulu Belle Poage and Nellie Poage, the future mother of attorney Howard Jenkins, Jr. The Poages moved to La Crosse, Wisconsin, in 1884, where James was employed as coachman and Anna as cook and domestic servant at the estate of Albert Pettibone, a wealthy lumber mill owner. After the deaths of Lulu Belle in 1887 and James of tuberculosis in 1888 Anna and her two surviving children moved to the Albert Clark Easton and Lucian Frederick Easton estate where Anna was stewardess in charge of domestic ...


Tolan, Eddie  

Adam R. Hornbuckle

track and field athlete and Olympian, known as The Midnight Express, was born Thomas Edward Tolan in Denver, Colorado, the son of Edward Tolan and Alice (maiden name unknown). When Tolan was a youngster, his parents moved first to Salt Lake City, Utah, and then to Detroit, Michigan, in search of better employment opportunities. In Detroit he received his secondary education at Cass Technical High School. Tolan, who played quarterback on the football team and sprinted on the track team, garnered national attention through his exceptional running ability. The highlight of his high school football career came in 1926, when the five foot seven, 140-pound speedster rushed for six touchdowns against rival Western High School. Although a subsequent knee injury limited his gridiron ability, Tolan in 1927 ran one hundred yards in 9.8 seconds, establishing a Michigan state high school record.

Upon graduating from high school in 1927 ...


Wright, Stan  

Chris Elzey

track coach, teacher, and administrator, was born Stanley Van Dorne Wright in Englewood, New Jersey, the son of Spencer Wright, a sanitation worker and truck driver, and Mildred (Prime) Wright, a seamstress and cook. Growing up in a northern city proved no shield from racism. In junior high and high school, Wright had little option but to follow a curriculum for black students that de-emphasized academics. His parents, however, taught him to value education.

Unfortunately, America's involvement in World War II interrupted his schooling. Soon after Pearl Harbor, Wright joined the Army Air Corps. However, he failed to complete pilot training, and his responsibilities at an airbase in Kansas consisted primarily of office tasks. While in the Air Corps, in late 1944, he married Hazel Mathes and they would have four children. In 1945 Wright was reassigned to an airbase in Massachusetts He ...