Prepared by: Miguell Ceasar & Lindsay Boknight (October 2, 2021) Edited & Curated by: Dr. T. DeWayne Moore (November 10, 2022)
Title of Collection: UA0016 – Frederick Douglass Patterson Papers
Extent: .25 linear ft. (4 folders)
Access Restrictions: This collection is open for research.
Use Restrictions: Written permission must be obtained from the PVAMU Special Collections/Archives Department and all relevant rights holders before publishing quotations, excerpts, or images from any materials in this collection.
Biographical Note: Frederick Douglas Patterson was born on October 10, 1901. His parents died when was only two years old, and he loved around to live with aunts and uncles in different states, such as Washington, DC and Texas. His transient housing arrangements made an impact on his childhood, but his sister Bessie made great sacrifices to assure him a good education. She enrolled him in elementary school of Samuel Huston College (now Huston-Tillotson College) in Austin, TX. Afterwards, he attended Prairie View Normal and Industrial Institute, where he worked with top veterinarians in the agriculture department.
He studied under Dr. Edward B. Evans, and he followed in his role model’s educational path and attended Iowa State College. Patterson received three advanced degrees over the next nine years. By age 31, he had earned a master’s degree in veterinary medicine from Iowa State as well as a Ph.D. from Cornell University. After completing his doctorate, he returned to the Tuskegee Institute to teach in the Department of Agriculture. In fact, Patterson was the first person to earn a doctorate degree. Under his tenure, the reputation of the veterinary program improved significantly, and he even developed a graduate program. Tuskegee graduated most of the nation’s African American veterinarians. and the state of Alabama even provided funds for white students to study veterinary science under his guidance.
His foresight into emerging fields prompted him to initiate the commercial dietetics program, which infused professional cooking with business and service, and the program placed African American students in unprecedented high-level internships across the country. He also started the engineering program, which from its inception enabled African Americans to gain high level technical jobs across the country.
He also expanded the commercial aviation program and even learned to fly himself, but his contributions to aviation did not end there. In the late 1930s, Patterson defied all the political, social and financial odds against training African American youth to fly military airplanes. Not only did he acquire a coveted federal contract to establish a training site at Tuskegee, but he persuaded the government to establish a full air base in the town, an accomplishment which gave birth to the now legendary Tuskegee Airmen of the World War II. Nearly 1,000 African Americans completed their first training at Tuskegee Army Airfield. While Half went overseas as combat pilots during World War II, during which the Tuskegee Airmen boasted a spotless record. Not one bomber was lost to enemy planes in 1,500 missions. This feat contributed significantly to the eventual desegregation of the American armed forces.
As university president, Patterson also had an impact on the town of Tuskegee, where the vast numbers of residents lived in small wooden houses frequently destroyed by fire. Realizing the capacity of his largely vocational college, he pooled available talent and resources and created a program that trained and assisted the low-income citizens in building homes with a concrete foundation. The federal government recognized and adopted the methods used in the “Tuskegee concrete block” as a pragmatic approach to low-income housing as models for rural homes, both domestically and internationally.
Patterson’s perhaps most far-reaching initiative took flight in 1944. While searching for new methods for private black colleges to become more financially sound, he founded the United Negro College Fund (UNCF), the first cooperative fundraising venture in American higher education. In 1964, he was elected president and chief executive officer and served in both capacities until 1966. John D. Rockefeller, Jr., took immediate interest and an active role in the organization; extraordinary leadership has propelled the organization to record heights ever since.
Dr. Patterson’s contributions, and work in higher education won him an invitation to sit on President Harry S. Truman’s President Commission in 1946-1947. The group’s findings influenced every major piece of higher education legislation during the 1960s. Among the historic developments that evolved from the commission were the system of community colleges and the enactment of Title III of the Higher Education Act of 1965, which brought direct institutional support to America’s smaller colleges and universities. Both policies continue to affect American higher education. As his educational and philanthropic interest continued to merge, Dr. Patterson was appointed as a director at the Phelps-Stokes Fund, a philanthropic foundation primarily concerned with the education of African Americans. He served as director from 1953 to 1958. He then served as president from 1958 to 1969. There, he concerned himself with the education of African Americans, Native Americans, Africans and disadvantaged white youth. During his tenure, he advanced Phelps-Stokes in its primary goals, which remain intact. The organization continues to sponsor research studies, administer scholarship and fellowship programs, conduct professional development programs, and engage in public education programs.
During his years at both the Phelps-Stokes Fund and the Robert R. Moton Memorial Institute, Dr. Patterson remained closely tied to the institutions he championed. He served on the boards of a number of HBCUs, including Hampton Institute (now University), Tuskegee Institute (now University), the Interdenominational Theological Center, and Bennett College. He also served as the chairman of Bennett’s Board of Trustees. Additionally, nineteen colleges and universities awarded him honorary degrees. On June 23, 1987, President Ronald Reagan awarded Dr. Patterson the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the nation’s highest civilian honor. He died in 1988, and he was buried on the campus of Tuskegee University.
Biography by Lindsay Boknight & Dr. DeWayne Moore
Scope & Contents: The Frederick Douglass Patterson Papers consist of a brief biography, event programs, and other printed materials.
Arrangement: We arranged this collection in one series.
Series I Printed materials
Preferred Citation: Frederick Douglass Patterson Papers, Special Collections/Archives Department, John B. Coleman Library, Prairie View A&M University
Patterson, Frederick Douglass (1901-1988)
African Americans — Education — Alabama-Tuskegee
Education — Alabama — Tuskegee
Prairie View (Tex.)
Prairie View A & M University
United Negro College Fund (UNCF)
Series 1 Printed materials